In the wake of continued civil unrest, Ruby Bridges took part in a virtual conversation with the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis to discuss current events and her new book, “This Is Your Time.”
The Zoom call Nov. 11 commemorated the 60th anniversary of the day Bridges walked through the doors of William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. At 6 years old, she was the first person to integrate the school. Bridges had to be escorted into the school by federal marshals, as crowds of white protesters chanted things like “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate,” threw things at Bridges and hurled racial slurs her way.
Kimberly Harms Robinson, director of public relations for the museum, first met Bridges 15 years ago when the museum created the Power of Children: Making a Difference exhibit. The exhibit tells the story of three children: Bridges, Anne Frank and Ryan White, who changed the world through their circumstances. Bridges called the museum her second home, and said events happening today are no different from what she saw growing up.
“Watching what took place this past May, my heart was so full because we saw a person lose his life right before our very eyes by the hands of people that are supposed to serve and protect us,” Bridges said, referencing the death of George Floyd. “It made me think about the work I’ve been doing trying to explain to kids that racism has no place in their hearts and their minds, and we need to be able to come together.”
Bridges referenced her teacher, Barbara Henry, who was brought to New Orleans from Baltimore to teach Bridges when other teachers refused.
“Ms. Henry and I connected in that classroom, and it didn’t matter to her what I looked like,” Bridges said. “The first day, I was apprehensive because she looked exactly like the crowd that was standing outside. But I soon realized she looked like the crowd, but she wasn’t like them. She showed me her heart.”
Bridges wrote “This Is Your Time” following the protests that occurred around the country this summer to teach children about the power of their voice.
“This book is my letter to young people. What they were seeing on the streets looked exactly like what I saw,” Bridges said. “They shouldn’t be afraid. It was something we had to go through back then to get us to where we are today. It was a hard fought struggle, but it had to happen for us to come together. Now, it’s your time to pick up the torch and move it forward.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.