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Civil Rights Leader Ruby Bridges Visits Stevenson

Ruby Bridges, one of America’s Civil Rights icons and leaders, visited Robert Louis Stevenson on Tuesday, November 14th. This experience was initiated by the Literature and Social Justice English classes. During the first quarter of the 2017-2018 school year, the class focused on learning about the American Civil Rights Movement. They learned about leaders of this movement, and more importantly, they discovered young people who had a huge impact on the movement, such as Claudette Colvin and Ruby Bridges. They read articles, short stories, and novels about these young icons. Inspired by Ruby Bridges’ story, they wrote to her, extending an offer for her to visit with our student body. She graciously agreed!

Tuesday, November 14th, was the anniversary of the milestone day in 1960 when, flanked by the National Guard, Ruby walked through a hostile crowd to her new school, at that time the all-white William Frantz School. Her story is an amazing one and changed our country. Ruby is not only an historical figure in American history, she is deeply topical today. She was honored by President Obama and has just been chosen as Woman of the Year this year by Glamour Magazine, which is the reason she was in New York City.

Ruby Bridges spent two hours with us all assembled in the lobby for a highly interactive experience. Not only did she take us through this historical moment, she shared what she learned from that experience. The message of the day was one she learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: don’t judge people by the color of their skin or the way they look, but by the content of their character and who they are inside. In addition to sharing her message, Ruby wanted to hear from the students. They shared the issues that they are most passionate about with Ruby and brainstormed ideas for them to take on an active role in solving societal issues. These issues included equality, empathy, LGBTQ rights, cancer, and gun violence. The students were serious, articulate and thinking deeply about the impact that these issues have on their lives and the lives of others. Ruby charged them with continuing this conversation and expressed her excitement about their wishes and goals for the future of our society and world!
synopsis by Kim Rozanski, Curriculum Coordinator

The quotes below show the impact that Ruby’s visit had on our students and faculty

“Personally, hearing Ruby Bridges talk was incredibly inspiring. Hearing about her story from her own perspective, and about how it shaped her into the person she is today really made me think more about how racism is spread and what we can do to stop it. Hearing her talk about how she’d dedicated her life to fighting for social justice reminded me of the responsibility I have and the future ahead of me, and how I must always try to do the right thing.”
Stevenson student

“I think the fact that Ruby endured so much throughout her life and as a child, and was still able to translate those experiences into something that we, as more sheltered teens from a different era, could understand and empathize with was very inspirational. I was really struck by how much compassion and understanding she had even for the people who discriminated against her. I think the message I took away from her visit was that someone else’s anger doesn’t need to affect or damage you, and that even ignorance and hate can be combated with love and teaching.”
Stevenson student

“I thought Ruby Bridges story was amazing. The way she thought she was going to college and then when she realized what was happening, it was amazing how she handled it.”
Stevenson student

“Ruby Bridges inspired me to fight for what I stand for…I learned that older people are afraid of change, but we as young people have to be the ones to make changes in how people are treated going forward.”
Stevenson student

“It inspired me to empower others. In the end, she’s just a normal person. She showed me that you don’t have to be famous or world-renowned. Anyone can be a hero to others.”
Stevenson student

“Ruby’s words regarding unity inspired me. The way she talked about love and working as a team with our peers instead of fighting against them almost brought me to tears…When Ruby said “you have the power to change the world,” it felt like she was talking to me. That is how much I connected to it. That moved me because it reminded me that everything I want to accomplish is totally possible, and that with faith, I will do it…I took away optimism. After her visit, I felt that much more confident in myself, and it let me know that contrary to what I sometimes feel, there are people who are in touch with their hearts that go out of their way to be kind. See people, not their appearances.”
Stevenson student

“Hearing Ruby Bridges speak on the anniversary of her walk into William Frantz Elementary was an incredibly moving experience. I had my first unfortunate encounter with racism in Kindergarten and I remember my mother showing me Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” and telling me about Ruby Bridges. Learning that another little black girl had dealt with the same issues as me and was in a famous painting because of her bravery in the face of ignorance & adversity was awe inspiring. Learning about the history she made had a profound impact on me as a child. Ruby Bridges has been a hero of mine for a long time and meeting her in person and hearing her story firsthand was the experience of a lifetime.”
Haley Robinson, Art Teacher