Education Week: Ruby Bridges’ First Day At White House

 

 

 

A little girl walks to her first day of school in the Norman Rockwell painting titled “The Problem We All Live With.” She wears a crisply ironed white dress with ribbons in her hair. She walks past a wall scrawled with racial slurs and smashed tomato, flanked by U.S. Marshals.

The day Ruby Bridges entered a New Orleans elementary school in 1960, every teacher refused to teach a black child and every white family took their children out of school. The six-year-old was taught alone for a full year by a specially hired teacher. On her first day of school, Ruby Bridges became a civil rights icon.

This painting is now on display in the White House, just outside the Oval Office. When Bridges visited to see the historic painting, President Obama told her, “I think it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for you guys, I might not be here and we might not be looking at this together.”

 

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Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.