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Civil rights icon to speak at Smith College Friday

  • Contributed Photo/Smith CollegeRuby Bridges.


Thursday, February 01, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — Civil rights activist Ruby Bridges will speak at Smith College on Friday at 4 p.m. as part of the college’s Presidential Colloquium series.

Bridges was 6 years old in 1960 when she was sent to the all-white William Frantz Public School in New Orleans. She was the youngest of a group of African-American students to integrate schools in the American South.

Bridges was escorted by federal marshals through a mob of angry and violent protesters who had gathered to greet her on her first day of classes. Although many students were withdrawn from the school as a result of Bridges’ attendance and most teachers refused to teach her, she was determined to get an education and never missed a day of classes.

Her bravery inspired the Norman Rockwell painting “The Problem We All Live With” (1964), which depicts the young Bridges walking to school between two sets of federal marshals, a racial epithet marking the wall behind them.

Her memoir, “Through My Eyes,” was released in 1999. “Racism is a grown-up disease,” Bridges has said, “and we must stop using our children to spread it.”

She was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal in 2001.

The colloquium will take place in John M. Greene Hall at 60 Elm St. on the Smith campus.