Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Keynote Address

January 20, 2020

6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Washington and Lee University
Lenfest Center for the Arts
Keller Theater
Lexington, VA 24450

Washington and Lee University will celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this year with a week’s worth of events. The centerpiece of the series will be a keynote address by Civil Rights trailblazer Ruby Bridges.

Bridges’ talk will take place on Sunday, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m. in Keller Theatre in the Lenfest Center on the Washington and Lee University campus. A reception will follow in Kamen Gallery. Both the talk and reception are free and open to the public.

Bridges was born in Mississippi in 1954, the same year the United States Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision ordering the integration of public schools. Her parents decided to move to New Orleans because they heard of better opportunities in the city.

In 1960, when Ruby Bridges was only six years old, she became one of the first black children to integrate New Orleans’ all-white public school system. Bridges was greeted by an angry mob at the school. Escorted by federal marshals, she bravely crossed the threshold, thus initiating the desegregation of New Orleans’ public schools and changing the face of education across the country.

Bridges has been an activist for racial equality her entire life. She established The Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Bridges also wrote about her early experiences in two children’s books, “Through My Eyes” and “Ruby Bridges Goes to School.” She received the Carter G. Woodson Book Award in 2000 for “Through My Eyes.”

In 2007, the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis unveiled an exhibition documenting Bridges’ life. The exhibition, titled “The Power of Children: Making a Difference,” is on permanent display at the museum. It includes a re-creation of Bridges’ first-grade classroom.

In July 2011, Bridges met with former U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. While Obama and Bridges viewed the Norman Rockwell painting of her on display, he told her, “I think it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn’t be looking at this together.”

A reception will follow in the Kamen Gallery.

Collegiate, History, Meeting, Lecture, Presentation