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Monday, November 23, 2015

Meeting History IRL

Yes, meeting history in REAL LIFE. And it was every bit as cool as I thought it would be. You probably recognize this piece of art work by Norman Rockwell.
The Problem We All Live With by Norman Rockwell

Well, the Museum of Art at the local university opened up a Norman Rockwell exhibit this past week and the opening night included a lecture by none other than....RUBY BRIDGES!!!!! I got in line an hour and a half before they started giving out wristbands for the lecture and barely made it in time to get the wristband that allowed you into the actual museum rather than the overflow. But the weather was pretty cold, so we decided to not stand in line for two more hours to get on the main floor and just accept being inside the museum in the basement instead. We arrived 50 minutes before the lecture only to stand in line for 40 more minutes outside in the cold before getting in. But it was all worth it. Ruby gave a fabulous talk about what she remembered and what she later learned about her experience as the very first colored child in a New Orleans school. She was amazing. Absolutely amazing.

"Racism is a grown-up disease. We need to stop using our children to spread it."

"There is no explanation for racism."

"Babies come into this world with a clean heart, until some adult teaches racism to them"

"We are all responsible for what we see unfolding before us....Are we afraid today of what we might lose? What might change?...We are losing anyway... Racism is a grown-up disease. Let's stop using our children to spread it."

After her talk we were able to stand in line (for only another hour) to meet her and get our books signed. Unfortunately they didn't let you take the time for pictures, so here's my best shots while the line was still moving.

My mom meeting Ruby.

My youngest daughter, Cate, getting her book signed and shaking hands with Ruby.
I am so glad I was able to take my daughter to meet her. I only wish I could have had my entire class listen to her.  One of my students did get to go with her family though. What a powerful learning experience for all the kids who were there. My daughter is a pretty strong believer in social justice and I know this is something she will always remember. I took my signed book to school. Hopefully my fifth graders will pick it up and read it. If they don't take the opportunity now, I'll make sure they do when we get to the civil rights era in US history.

Click to go to Amazon.

Here are a few other civil rights books for when you celebrate Black History Month or teach about the civil rights era. Clicking on any of the covers will take you to Amazon.

Freedom on the Menu is about the Greensboro sit-ins.
White Socks Only is about a young girl who doesn't understand the meaning of the "whites only" sign on the drinking fountain, which puts her in a dangerous situation. This book is also on the National Screen Actors Guild website,

Martin's Big Words is one of my favorites. I love how the author weaves Dr. King's actual words into this biography.
You cannot gather books about the civil rights era without including Rosa by Nikki Giovanni.
I found this book at the Utah Council of the IRA last year. It's about a young white girl who rides the bus to Washington D.C. to hear Martin Luther King speak. Along the way she experiences the same unfair treatment as those on the bus with her, and she has the opportunity to take a stand against racism.
Kadir Nelson is one of my favorite illustrators and this biography about Nelson Mandela will not disappoint you. I picked it up when it first came out and didn't use it in the classroom because I thought it was above my first graders. I'm excited to use it with my fifth graders this year. Racism isn't just a problem in the U.S., and I think it will be good for my students to think more globally.
I am always looking for great books to use in the classroom.  So if you have other favorite picture books about the civil rights era, please, please, please leave me a comment.  


  1. Brandi, this is so cool that you got to meet Ruby in real life! Thanks for sharing all the great civil rights picture books. I am saving this post for when the time comes to teach this topic.

    The Organized Plan Book

  2. That is so cool that you were able to meet Ruby Bridges! What a great experience!