By Levi Anthony - Posted 8/25/2011
Ruby Bridges visited the White House recently to look at this Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With, which hangs in the West Wing near the President’s Oval Office.
Who is Ruby Bridges? If you slept through the lesson on the Civil Rights Movement, here is the actual photograph of the 6 year-old as she was escorted by federal agents into an elementary school in New Orleans following the historic Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation in public education illegal.
It is strange that some people find it odd that the President would hang the painting in the White House. Yes, the painting depicts one of the ugliest periods in our nation’s history. But it’s a fact, it did happen.
On November 15, 1960 The New York Times reported: “Some 150
white, mostly housewives and teenage youths,
clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted “Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to segregate; eight, six, four, two, we don’t want a chigeroo.”
“Forty minutes later, four deputy marshals arrived with a little Negro girl and her mother. They walked hurriedly up the steps and into the yellow brick building while onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.”
“The girl, dressed in a stiffly starched white dress with a ribbon in her hair, gripping her mother’s hand tightly and glancing apprehensively toward the crowd.
Ruby Bridges in her award winning childrens book Through My Eyes writes: “The author John Steinbeck was driving through New Orleans with his dog, Charley, when he heard about the racist crowds that gathered 0utside the Franz school each morning to protest its integration. He decided to go see what was happening.”
“He especially wanted to see a group of women who came to scream at me and at the few white children who crossed the picket lines and went to school…
John Steinbeck wrote: “The show opened on time. Sound the
sirens. Motorcycle cops. Then two big black cars
filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school. The crowd seemed to hold its breath. Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest negro girl you ever
saw, dressed in shining starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round. Her face and little legs were very black against the white.”
“The big marshals stood her on the curb and a jangle of jeering shrieks went up from behind the barricades. The little girl did not look at the howling crowd, but from the side the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn. The men turned her around like a doll and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big. Then the girl made a curious hop, and I think I know what it was. I think in her whole life she had not gone ten steps without skipping, but now in the middle of her first step, the weight bore her down and her little round feet took measured, reluctant steps between the tall guards. Slowly they climbed the steps and entered the school.” -Travels With Charley.
Here is the President talking with Bridges as they viewed the painting.
This is one of the absolute best sites I've found online, and I say that as a teacher who has spent countless hours looking for kid-friendly material on the net. I have no idea how you found the time and energy to put it together, but you have my admiration! - Andrew Cowells, Concord Jr. High