Saturday, May 19  •  10am-3pm

museum courtyard  •  Free & Open to the public

For the third year, the National Civil Rights Museum is proud to partner with civil rights activist Ruby Bridges-Hall to present the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival. 

With school segregation among the hot topics in education, Ruby Bridges-Hall advocates for quality education for all and safe schools. During an interview at last year’s festival, she made the statement, “I’m a strong believer that if we are going to get past our racial differences, it’s going to come from the next generation, which is our kids. We all know that’s where racism starts. None of our babies are born knowing anything about disliking one another, disliking someone that looks different. It’s taught to them and handed down. So, if we can teach them to be racist, we can teach them not to be.”

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.”

Children pre-K through elementary school not only receive free books at the festival, but can also enjoy storytelling and entertainment. Educators, with their valid school ID, can also get free books for their classroom. The event will feature fun activities including face painting, balloon animals, dance and musical performances and food trucks. Southern College of Optometry will conduct free eye screenings for children.  Memphis Athletic Ministries will host its SNAG (Start New at Golf) activity. Youth and young-at-heart are encouraged to dress up as their favorite book character. 

Entertainment includes:

  • Joe Murphy, Music for Aardvarks Memphis
  • Les Passees Kids on the Block, puppeteers
  • Deborah Thomas Manning, soloist
  • Sue Schnitzer, Memphis Public Libraries (Interactive music and stories)

Author-readers with book signing:

  • Ruby Bridges-Hall, Through My Eyes
  • Linda Williams Jackson, A Sky Full of Stars and Midnight Without a Moon
  • Carole Boston Weatherford, Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Nancy Churnin,  Charlie Takes His Shot

Guest readers include:

  • Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, civil rights activist and 2015 Freedom Award honoree
  • Gwen Calleo, Pre-K Teacher, Corning Achievement School
  • Readers from Urban Child Institute
  • Sue Schnitzer, Memphis Public Libraries (interactive music and stories)
  • Mearl Purvis, FOX-13 Memphis News Anchor
  • Mallori King, a Memphis teen and 2016 Keeper of the Dream Award winner who started a nonprofit collecting books for elementary students

The festival is sponsored by Ruby Bridges Foundation, Scholastic, The Urban Child Institute, International Paper, Georgia Pacific Memphis Cellulose, Toyota Bodine, Plum Street Press, ArtsMemphis, Tennessee Arts Commission and FedEx Corporation.  Literacy partners include Early Success Coalition, First Regional Library, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Library, Southern College of Optometry, Shelby County Schools and Books from Birth, a program of Porter-Leath.