Tulane University is proud to announce that the keynote speaker at this year’s virtual All-University Unified Commencement will be Ruby Bridges, an icon of the civil rights movement who, at age 6, became the youngest and most recognized member of a group of African American students to integrate public schools in New Orleans. In 2011, when Ruby Bridges visited the Oval Office, President Obama said of her and her classmates, "I think it's fair to say that if it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't be here today."
The eldest of eight children, Ruby was born in Mississippi in 1954 – the same year that the U. S. Supreme Court handed down its Brown v. Board of Education decision, which ruled that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional. Of the six African American students designated to integrate New Orleans' William Frantz Elementary School, she was the only one to actually enroll. Her memoir, Through My Eyes, was released in 1999, the same year that she established the Ruby Bridges Foundation to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2009, she published the children’s book, Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story. In November of last year, inspired by the movement for racial equity and justice taking place around the world, Ruby released her latest book This Is Your Time. A New York Times bestseller, the book is written as a letter to the “young peacemakers of America,” and uses her story and experience to inspire and stand with activists continuing the struggle toward equity and justice today.
Artists, filmmakers, journalists and historians have made her story known worldwide, including the famous painting by Norman Rockwell depicting her escort by U.S. marshals on her first day at William Frantz Elementary.