Historical figure and civil rights activist Ruby Bridges spoke to Owensboro High School’s African American History class along with members of Western Academy and Girls, Inc. on Tuesday afternoon, telling them about her journey as a student and the impact that was made.
OHS teacher Lori Thurman said Bridges is a speaker she has been attempting to get for her students for almost a decade.
“I just knew in there are very few civil rights leaders around anymore and for people and kids to hear her story firsthand was so important,” Thurman said.
Bridges is famously known for being the first African American to integrate an elementary school in the South in 1960. Bridges was only 6 years old when she stepped foot into a formerly all-white school in New Orleans.
Now, she is 67 years old and and has been speaking to students for years now. She uses the money from the events for scholarships for students in her hometown of New Orleans.
Thurman said they were able to finally got Bridges to talk to the school thanks to fundraising with The OPS Foundation, Owensboro NAACP and Human Relations Commission.
The event was moderated by Mya Kelly, a junior at OHS, and she asked Bridges questions previously submitted by her African American History class.
Kelly said the questions ranged from how Bridges felt emotionally to the status she holds now as a figure.
Kelly said being able to talk to Bridges provided a new perspective on the class and the history that she learns.
“You see movies and books about history, but you don’t know what it really is like; like you’re never going meet Christopher Columbus. So when you learn about [Bridges] and her story, and then you meet her and get to hear her speak, it’s extremely eye-opening,” Kelly said.
It reminded Kelly of two lessons: some history isn’t that far removed, and you can be any age and still make an impact.
When she was sitting on stage, Kelly said she looked at the crowd made up of people of diverse backgrounds and it would not be possible had it not been for Bridges making a difference at 6 years old.
Thurman invited Girls, Inc and Western Academy to the event, saying it’s important to see what Bridges did and lived through so she can be an inspiration to students of all ages.
“She was 6 years old, and so I want them to feel empowered and ask themselves ‘if she could do this, what can I do to stand up for what’s right in my community?’” Thurman said. “I hope that they would feel that just because they’re smaller, or they’re not in high school, or they’re not in college, doesn’t mean they can’t make a difference.”
Josh Kelly, Owensboro Times