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Civil Rights Icon Preaches Tolerance

Ruby Bridges, who became a pioneer of integration at 6, tells students of segregation's cruelty; 'evil comes in all shapes and colors.'

Ruby Bridges, who became a symbol of the civil rights movement as a first-grader in 1960, Thursday called on Port Washington students to look beyond people's skin color.

Speaking to an audience at , Bridges recounted the highly charged days in New Orleans when she was surrounded by U.S. marshalls as one of the first pupils to defy segregationists and attend a formerly all-white school in the South.

"I was thrust into the middle of this," she said, recalling the confusion of a 6-year-old as she was escorted past jeering crowds of whites. On the first day, she said, white parents pulled more than 500 pupils from the William Frantz Elementary School rather than have them take classes with her.

Bridges, whose story was made into a 1998 TV movie, recalled with affection Barbara Henry, who taught little Ruby as her only student that tumultuous year. If it hadn't been for the caring white teacher, Bridges said, she would emerged as a different person.

The two were reunited several years ago on the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

Bridges recalled that not all the heroes of the civil rights struggle were black.
Among the martyrs of the civil rights movements, she noted were James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, one black and two whites. They were murdered in 1964 in Mississippi.  

"Evil comes in all shapes and colors," she said.

Bridges also spoke to pupils at Daly Elementary School Thursday through a grant arranged by the Port Washington Education Foundation. She was scheduled to visit Guggenheim Elementary on Friday.

Artist Norman Rockwell helped to burn the image of Ruby Bridges in the national consciousness with his painting "The Problem We All Live With."

Bridges challenged students to look beyond the surface when they meet people. "You should never judge someone by the color of their skin," she said.

Jill Rader Levine March 18, 2011 at 09:13 PM
The original painting by Norman Rockwell is now in an excellent exhibition of his illustrations,paintings and photos at the Brooklyn Museum. I was there today to see it. According to the catalogue, three young girls were used as the models for the painting "The Problem We All Live with". If you are interested in Americana then make the trip Brooklyn and see this show that spans Rockwell's entire career up to his images of our first space missions. This is a great time to bring children along because the museum also has a floor devoted to a giant tipi and American Indian artifacts...and that's not all. Go see for yourself!
Lee Anne Timothy March 18, 2011 at 10:14 PM
Thanks to Ruby Bridges for coming to Port Washington to share her powerful story. And, to Kris Murphy (teacher, Schreiber H.S.) and Marisa DeMarco (teacher, Daly Elementary School) for thinking outside of the box to create an inspired program and for applying to the Port Washington Education Foundation for a grant to make it happen. A win-win all around.
Justin DeMarco March 19, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Congratulations to everyone involved! Your lives have been enriched thanks to this experience! Way to go Miss DeMarco and Mrs. Murphy.
Bob March 19, 2011 at 06:52 PM
I am glad I was able to attend Ms. Bridges very moving presentation at Schreiber. I was very impressed with how attentive the Schreiber students were and the very thoughtful questions they asked after the presentation. And as I was leaving the building, I overheard 2 students run into 2 of their friends and tell them they were just in a terrific program. Thanks to the teachers for developing this program and PWEF for funding it.

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