In a letter to Bridges, a fourth-grader wrote, “Thank you for being a hero. You changed my life ... because if you did not do what you did I would never have met some of my friends, and then I would not be the person I am.”
Another fourth-grade student, Solomon, wrote, “I like the message ‘give others a chance.’ It inspires me to not judge. I want to read your book again! P.S., I’m the guy that hugged you and said, ‘Thank you sooooo much!’”
Another student pointed out, “‘She was amazing!’”
Amrhein reported after almost every presentation she heard students say something similar to “your words mean so much to me. I struggle with bullying and/or friendship. Now I know I’ll be OK.”
Teachers were also excited, saying, “‘It was amazing to see my history lesson from yesterday standing right there today, in front of us, living and breathing and sharing her story! .... She really made the kids think about what the Civil Rights Movement was and gave them the time to think, to think what it must have been like for her .... She was so approachable, just like she seems in her book. I can’t believe I hugged Ruby Bridges!’”
Bridges’ assistant emphasized, “‘Ruby Bridges has an important place in American history. She helps others see the injustices of judging people by the color of their skin through her books and her presentations .... (She) believes strongly in literacy and the power of education as she brings her message of tolerance, respect and appreciation of all differences. She speaks on faith, forgiveness, race and her experiences with desegregation.’”
The story of her first-grade year is featured in the Disney movie “Ruby Bridges,” her book “Through my Eyes” and in “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles. Norman Rockwell featured her in his painting “The Problem we all Live With,” which is on display at the White House. More information can be found at www.rubybridges.com.
Her visit was made possible through funding from the John W. Hillenbrand Vision Fund, Ripley County Community Foundation, Rural Alliance for the Arts, Batesville Community Education Foundation and several local benefactors.
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.