Kindergarten students celebrate legacy of Ruby Bridges, 63rd anniversary of historic civil rights moment

Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 5:15 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Kindergarten students at Ross Elementary School learned about Ruby Bridges and her legacy during a symbolic walk and storytelling ceremony Tuesday morning.

Ruby Bridges would’ve been about the same age as these Ross Elementary students when she made history as the first Black student to attend an all-white elementary school in the South 63 years ago.

“Isn’t that amazing?” asks Sue Bolley, USD 501 board of education member who read passages from Ruby Bridges book, Through My Eyes, to students. “She’s an American hero that we should remember every November 14, but any day you think about how lucky you are to come into school and learn and be with your friends.”

Students were led on a symbolic walk from their classroom to the bridge connecting Ross Elementary to Eisenhower Middle School. There, they sat gathered around Bolley as she read Bridges’ book and even recalled her own time at segregated schools as a child.

Alexis Brown, a kindergarten teacher at Ross Elementary, says her students were impacted by Bridges’ story.

“It was very sad for them when we were talking about it yesterday,” she says. “They just couldn’t quite comprehend it. Especially because now you know, we all get to be together.”

Brown says conversations like this can be hard for young minds. She introduced them to Bridges’ story ahead of time to help them better understand.

“You do have to be careful. You have to watch what you say,” she says. “But I read a story to them yesterday about it and you know, after the end, they were very understanding and they had a lot of empathy.”

Brown says her goal is for students to feel empowered to stand up for what they know is right.

“I just hope that they’re able to go home and tell their parents everything that they have learned about being inclusive and standing up for what is right and what you believe in,” she says. “It is very tough, especially in our world today.”

Tuesday’s event is part of Ruby Bridges Walk to School Day, a movement aimed at ending racism and unifying communities.

Last month Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation declaring November 14th as Walk to School Day in Kansas.