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Ruby Bridges Reading Festival


Honoring a civil rights icon

Ruby Bridges is a world-renowned name, considering her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. Now on May 4, the National Civil Rights Museum will be hosting the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival in partnership with civil rights and literacy advocate Ruby Bridges for the seventh year. The festival is free and will celebrate Bridges’ legacy of bringing together families through reading. This year’s festival will hold significance in that it coincides with the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board decision. 

Six years after the decision, six-year-old Bridges was the first Black student to integrate an all-White school alone in New Orleans on Nov. 14,1960. Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With”, immortalized Bridges’ walk to the school’s front door. 

Bridges is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “This Is Your Time,” which follows her previous award-winning autobiography, “Through My Eyes”. Bridges established the Ruby Bridges Foundation which helps to provide leadership training programs that inspire youth and community leaders to embrace and value the richness of diversity. Bridges will read from her new release “Dear Ruby: Hear Our Hearts” at this year’s festival. The book includes a letter from Memphis elementary student Benjamin Williams. 

“Reaching children through books and storytelling provides an outlet for creativity and expression. The letters young people share with me are encouraging and demonstrate they want, and are preparing for, a better world in which they can grow and thrive – hopefully without biased opinions of one another,” Bridges said. “The museum partnership provides a platform for children to learn and be heard,” she said.

Bridges received the Museum’s 2015 Freedom Award, and afterwards Bridges decided she wanted to help promote literacy to Memphis by implementing the festival. Bridges is the recipient of the NAACP Martin Luther King Award, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and honorary doctorate degrees from Connecticut College, College of New Rochelle, Columbia University Teachers College, and Tulane University. 

“As we observe the 70th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it’s important to recognize the bravery and tenacity of the littlest foot soldiers of that era who carried forth the hope of education equity for all,” said Dr. Russ Wigginton, president of the National Civil Rights Museum. “Our partnerships during the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival is just one way we continue the legacy of those who stood valiantly to desegregate schools and forge better opportunities for the next generation.”

Thousands of books are given away during the festival. Families and children from grades pre-K through elementary can enjoy activities such as music, balloon art, magic shows, craft activities, and storytelling by children’s book authors at the festival.