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Anti-discrimination pioneer Ruby Bridges writes children's book

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(AP) – Six-year-old first grader Ruby Bridges became one of the first black students in a segregated school in New Orleans more than 60 years ago. Teaching about race in America today is more complicated than ever, so she compiled her own experiences into a picture book for her youngest readers.

Bridges, along with three other black students attending different schools, first consolidated an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960.

“I Am Ruby Bridges,” featuring illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, goes on sale Tuesday. Published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., and is intended for readers ages 4 and up.

Complete with a glossary that includes the words “supreme court” and “law,” the book is an uplifting tale of how opportunity and children can make a difference, Bridges said in an interview with The Associated Press. .

“It’s a true reflection of what happened through my own eyes,” she said.

But books by or about Bridges have been challenged by conservatives in some school districts amid complaints about race-related education. said he hopes

“My babies come in all different shapes and colors, and I’ve been very lucky because of the way I tell stories that my books are bestsellers and probably banned in schools.” But I think my parents really want to overcome racial differences, and they’re going to look for those books.”

Bridges was born in 1954. That same year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racism in public schools is unconstitutional. Southern school districts, including New Orleans, continued to resist consolidation for years.

But on November 14, 1960, carrying a plaid school bag and wearing a white sweater, Bridges, accompanied by four U.S. Marshals, taunted the segregated William Frantz Elementary School. I passed the crowd. This scene was made famous by Norman Rockwell’s painting The Problem We All Live With. This painting hung in the White House near the Oval Office during Barack’s presidency as President Obama.

The theme of this book is named after the author. “Ruby” is a precious stone and “bridge” means to connect people. Humorously told from a freshman’s perspective, the book captures not only the dread of a tumultuous first day at school, but the wonder of Bridges’ experience.

“It really looks like Mardi Gras to me, but you’re not throwing beads. What’s Mardi Gras without the beads?”

The only parade that day was outside the school. White parents soon began to withdraw their children, so Bridges spent the entire year alone with a white teacher, Barbara Henry, who was still alive and “very good friends,” Bridges said. Henry’s acceptance and kindness during this time taught her an important lesson, she said.

“It shaped me into a totally open-minded person. And I feel like that girl is still in me. It’s my mission.

Elsewhere in New Orleans on the same day Bridges attended school, Gail Etienne, Leona Tate, and Tessie Prevost entered the formerly all-white McDonog No. 19 Elementary School. Last year, New Orleans hosted a weekend of events in honor of Bridges and other women.

Originally from Mississippi, Bridges still lives in Metro New Orleans and has written or co-authored five books. Two years later, she published “This Is Your Time” for older children than her new book.


Reeves is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team.