This week, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution honoring civil rights pioneer Ruby Bridges based on the efforts of a first grade class in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-Milwaukee) introduced resolutions in the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, after hearing about a classroom project at Barton Elementary School in Milwaukee to honor Ruby Bridges’ efforts to integrate schools and improve public education.
Bridges was the subject of the famous Norman Rockwell painting “The Problem We All Live With,” of a young African American girl being escorted into school on her first day.
What started as an individual classroom project at Barton has now become a resolution passed by both chambers of the U.S. Congress – officially honoring November 14, 1960 as the first day of integrated schools in New Orleans and commending Ruby Bridges for her bravery.
“Nearly 50 years after Ruby Bridges became the first child to break the color barrier in New Orleans elementary schools, her heroic efforts continue to inspire the lives of children across the country, and one first grade class in Milwaukee in particular,” Senator Feingold said. “I congratulate the students at Barton Elementary for their great effort to raise awareness of Ruby Bridges’ story of courage and lifelong commitment to improving educational opportunities for all children.
I am pleased I was able to work with Congresswoman Moore and help advance the students’ efforts from the classroom through the United States Congress.”
Congresswoman Moore said, “I am so inspired by these young students. Their efforts to raise awareness of a brave little girl on the front lines of change nearly 50 years ago brought about action in the halls of Congress. They not only learned lessons about diversity and inclusion, they also learned first hand that this is the people’s government and that their voices count. I am glad to work with Senator Feingold to help further these students’ efforts, and I couldn’t be prouder to lead the House effort to recognize Ruby Bridges as we begin Black History Month.”
“It has been my privilege to work with the caring and compassionate children at Barton Elementary on this special project. Because of the heroic efforts of Ruby Bridges, this particular class of first graders, and all children in our fine nation, have had the opportunity to learn and grow together. It gives me great pride to know that even our youngest citizens can use the power of the pen and the spoken word to make great achievements in this world. It is my hope that by the 50th Anniversary of School Integration, we will be able to make November 14th a national day of celebration in honor of the courage of Ruby Bridges and all children who make a difference in this world by working together… a nation of children united!
Thank you to all of the members of Congress who supported “The Little Project That Could!,” said Laura Floryance, first grade teacher at Barton Elementary School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Even though Ruby Bridges endured riots and protests and retaliations against her family, she attended school at William Frantz every day during the 1960-61 school year. In 1999, Ruby Bridges established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to help eliminate racism and improve society by educating students around the country about her experiences, discussing ongoing efforts to promote diversity and providing lessons students could take back to their communities.
The Ruby Bridges resolution passed the U.S. Senate on November 10, 2009.