Ruby Bridges’ new book highlights the story that made her a civil rights icon: walking into school as one of the first Black students to desegregate an all-white Louisiana school in 1960.
“I Am Ruby Bridges” chronicles her history-making story from the eyes of her 6-year-old self, in what Bridges calls her “most personal book yet.”
Bridges was born in Mississippi in 1954, the year the U.S. Supreme Court made the landmark decision to integrate public schools.
Her family later moved to New Orleans, where she attended William Frantz Elementary School on Nov. 14, 1960, as the first to desegregate the city’s schools. She became a symbol of both racial justice and injustice. She was accompanied by guards on her way into school, faced with mobs of white protestors against integration.
“It’s not just about my experience integrating schools,” Bridges said in a press release. “It’s also about the innocent ways that a child sees the world. Writing as my six-year-old self reminded me how differently kids interpret things than adults do. Children are much better at finding humor in everything, and even in times of great challenge, that’s what this book really does.”
A glossary in the back of the book will help readers learn keywords about Bridges’ story.
The book goes on sale Sept. 6. Best-selling artist Nikkolas Smith illustrates the book.
Smith, who was raised in the South and learned about Bridges growing up, says the opportunity to work with the icon was an honor.
“This was an assignment I did not take lightly,” Smith said. “I was always one of the few Black faces in my elementary school, and I knew that Ms. Ruby was a huge reason why there was any progress at all. … It was a surreal moment at the start of this project, being able to talk with Ms. Ruby and get an understanding of that iconic time in her life through her six-year-old eyes.”
Her book comes out amid a nationwide fight against education on race and diversity in schools and libraries. Books about Bridges or authored by her — including “Ruby Bridges Goes to School” or “This Is Your Time” — have been targeted in the fight.
Since 2020, legislation that restricts race education in schools has popped up across the country. At least 35 states so far have proposed or passed legislation that bans or restricts education on race.
Supporters of these efforts say that some lessons on racism in the U.S. divide and shame students based on their race. Critics say these efforts aim to suppress the true racial history of the U.S.
Libraries in every state faced an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books, according to the American Library Association which has tracked such reports.
In 2021, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.