"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ruby Bridges

Please God, forgive these people because even if they say those mean things they don't know what they're doing. So you can forgive them just like you did those folks along time ago when they said terrible things about you.

Ruby Bridges Hall was born September 8, 1954 near Tylerton, Mississippi and moved to New Orleans with her family when she was four. In 1960 she was one of six African American children chosen to integrate the New Orleans school system and the only one to attend William Frantz Elementary. The first day of court-ordered desegregation was November 14, and U. S. Marshals took her to school. She recalls that day, "Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras."

White parents removed their children from the school, and teachers refused to have Bridges in their classroom. She spent her first-grade year as the only student of Barbara Henry, a newly-hired teacher from Boston. The marshals continued to escort her amid threats, and her mother suggested that she pray on the way to school. Her father lost his job for sending her to the all-white school, although supporters found him another one, and her grandparents in Mississippi were evicted from the farm where they sharecropped.

Norman Rockwell painted "The Problem We All Live With", showing Bridges dressed in white and surrounded by the marshals. The painting has been on loan to the White House from the Norman Rockwell Museum since June. It was also the cover of the January 1964 Look magazine. A White House blog said that Rockwell
" ...was a longtime supporter of the goals of equality and tolerance. In his early career, editorial policies governed the placement of minorities in his illustrations (restricting them to service industry positions only). However, in 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on with this, one of his most powerful paintings.”
Bridges is the subject of a children's biography, The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles (the child psychologist who counseled her in first grade), a 1998 TV movie, and the song Ruby's Shoes by Lori McKenna. She currently lives in New Orleans and has four grown sons as well as four nieces she raised after their father's death. She worked as a travel agent and is the chair of the Ruby Bridges Foundation which has the slogan "Racism is a grown-up disease and we must stop using our children to spread it."

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