Friday, April 24, 2020

"All Walks of Life"

12 x 12"
oil on panel

Today, I thought you might appreciate knowing about an American hero, Ruby Bridges and why she mattered in our country's history almost 60 years ago.

Norman Rockwell's iconic painting The Problem We All Live With was completed in 1964 for Look Magazine - his first illustration for the publication after ending a 47-year association with The Saturday Evening Post.  He worked with Look Magazine for 10 years, illustrating some of his deepest concerns about civil rights, poverty in America and the exploration of space.

In 1960, Ruby Bridges was six and became the first African American student to integrate an elementary school in New Orleans after a bitter year of resistance by the Louisiana school board.  What it took was a federal court ordering the state to desegregate and despite Louisiana's efforts to create entrance exams for African American students in order to enter any all-white school, Ruby was one of five who passed the exam.

Ruby and her mother were escorted to school every day by four federal marshals for the entire school year. Undeterred and dignified, she walked past crowds screaming vicious slurs at her. Parents withdrew their kids from school and only one teacher, a white woman from Boston, was willing to accept Ruby in her class of one.  She ate lunch by herself and never missed a day of school that year.

The Bridges family suffered for their daughter's courage - the grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for 25 years, her father lost his job and grocery stores refused to sell to her mother.  Ruby graduated from a desegregated high school, married and had four children, became a life-long activist for racial equality and established a foundation to promote tolerance and change through education.  In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington DC.

The painting The Problem We All Live With has traveled around the world, resided at the White House during President Obama's terms and can be viewed in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Please click here for a larger view.

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