Saturday, May 20  •  10am-3pm

museum courtyard  •  Free & Open to the public

For the second year, the National Civil Rights Museum is proud to partner with civil rights activist Ruby Bridges-Hall to present the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival on Saturday, May 20, from 10:00am to 3:00pm. 

At six years old, Ruby Bridges was the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana in 1960 when her parents responded to a request by the NAACP to help integrate the New Orleans school system.The Ruby Bridges Reading Festival celebrates Bridges' legacy of passionately advocating for equal rights, education and tolerance by bringing together families across racial, economic and educational backgrounds around reading.

Bridges-Hall stated, “As a child, I never quite understood the power of a story until I found myself at the center of one that catalyzed and emboldened a movement.  Today it is so important that our children learn to believe in the power of their stories and know what a force for change they can be.  Which is why I am honored to have the opportunity to share my experience with the wonder of storytelling joined with the beautiful people of Memphis on the holy grounds of the National Civil Rights Museum."

“A primary goal of the Ruby Bridges Foundation is to promote reading and literacy, but the Reading Festival is important to me for both professional and personal reasons,” Bridges-Hall explained. “Unfortunately, my parents could not afford to buy books for us. As a child I anonymously received Dr. Seuss books through the mail. To this day I do not know who sent me the books, and It was this gesture that inspired me to make sure we get books into the hands of as many kids as possible in hopes of them starting their own home libraries.”

Each child in grades pre-kindergarten through high school at the Festival not only has a chance to receive free books, but can also enjoy storytelling and entertainment.  Educators, with their valid school ID, also can get free books for their classroom. The event will feature fun activities including free eye screening, face painting, balloon animals, dance and musical performances and food truck treats. The event is designed to engage the community in ways to make reading fun. The format is picnic-style on the grounds of the museum’s Founders Park and courtyard. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets. The event is free and open to the public.

Entertainment includes:

  • Watoto (dancers)
  • Joe Murphy & Music for Aardvarks Memphis
  • Ekpe Abioto (musician)
  • Les Passess' Kids on the Block (puppeteers)
  • Grizzline (drumline)
  • Just as Beautiful (airbrush face painters)
  • Ms. B-Loonie (balloon artist)

Author/book signing:

  • Ruby Bridges-Hall, author, featured civil rights activist and education advocate 
  • Katina Rankin, Local 24 news anchor and children's book author
  • Glenn E. Singleton - author and education & diversity consultant
  • Marti Dumas – children’s book author and educator
  • Andrew Maraniss, sportswriter and author 
  • Shaila Karkera, Museum board member and children's book author

Guest readers include:

  • Altheida Mayfield, wife of the late R&B legend Curtis Mayfield
  • Ekundayo Bandele, Founder/CEO of Hattiloo Theatre
  • Diane Terrell, Grizzlies Foundation
  • Members of the Memphis Public Library & Information Centers' Real Men Read outreach program
  • Markuitta Washington, poet/spoken word artist
  • Terri Lee Freeman, Museum President

The festival is sponsored by International Paper, Ruby Bridges Foundation, Scholastic, Kathy & J.W. Gibson, Georgia Pacific Cellulose, Wells Fargo, FedEx and Memphis Downtown Commission.  Literacy partners include Books from Birth, Early Success Coalition, First Book, First Regional Library, Germantown Community Library, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Library and Information Center and Southern College of Optometry.