Civil rights legend Ruby Bridges, the first black person to desegregate an all-white elementary school in the south, is releasing a children’s book this fall.
Bridges wrote the book, with vivid illustrations by #1 New York Times bestselling artist Nikkolas Smith. Titled “I Am Ruby Bridges,” the book recounts her experience attending a white school at just six years old.
The African American icon told PR Newswire, “‘I Am Ruby Bridges’ is my most personal book yet. It’s not just about my experience integrating schools. 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. It allows young kids to learn history in a fun way, which is something that I’m very passionate about.”
On September 8, 1954, Ruby Nell Bridges was born in Tylertown, Mississippi. She grew up on a farm, and in 1958, at four years old, she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, with her parents.
In kindergarten, Bridges was one of many black students chosen to take an exam to determine their ability to attend a white school. Allegedly, the test was written in a challenging way to prevent African American students from integrating white learning institutions. However, she passed the exam and, in 1960, the NAACP contacted her parents, telling them she was one of six black children to pass the test. Bridges was the only one to attend the William Frantz School near New Orleans. Notably, she was also the first black student to attend an all-white elementary school in the south.
Due to America’s racist and volatile climate at the time, little Bridges was escorted to and from school by U.S. marshals. Crowds of white people gathered in front of her new school and taunted her.
As she attended William Frantz School, white protestors displayed racist behaviors toward the now 67-year-old hero. One white woman promised to poison her while another showed up to Bridges’ school holding an image of a black doll in a coffin.
Despite the difficulty that the six-year-old faced while attending the white institution, she persevered and became one of the most recognized faces of the civil rights era.
Concerning the illustrator, Bridges opined that Smith was the best person to bring her story to life.
“Nikkolas Smith is the perfect illustrator for this book,” she said. “He’s so creative and has the same limitless imagination as a child. Working with him has been a terrific match. It’s like he plucked images straight out of my head and put them on the page. His art is so real, and it comes from the heart. I know kids are really going to respond to it.”
Smith is an NAACP-nominated artist who created artwork for numerous children’s books geared towards black youth. These books include “My Hair Is Poofy, and That’s Ok!” (2017), “President Austin” (2019), and “The 1619 Project: Born on the Water” (2021).
“I Am Ruby Bridges” is slated to be in stores on September 6, 2022.