On November 14, 1960, a six-year-old girl named Ruby Bridges made history. Flanked by armed federal marshals, she braved angry mobs of people and did the unthinkable in New Orleans at the time … she was the first African-American child to integrate one of the area’s all-white schools. Three years later, Norman Rockwell painted her story for Look in a work that would become an iconic piece of American art.
Rockwell’s depiction of Bridges’ brave walk to school, titled The Problem We All Live With, was his first assignment for Look magazine in 1963, after ending his 47-year working relationship with the Saturday Evening Post. The painting, along with another, Murder in Mississippi, was the start of a new era for Norman Rockwell, where he chose to depict socially conscious – and sometimes controversial – issues of his time. The letters to the editor in response to his artwork in Look magazine were a mix of opinions. Some complimented the work and expressed hope for the future, while others called Rockwell’s work “vicious, lying propaganda.” Still, Rockwell felt that the young girl’s story needed to be told. More than 50 years later, her story is just as powerful.
“We as adults have to create the environment that brings us all together,” said Bridges, who believes that children, in particular, have the ability to shape the future. “Children can do something that we adults haven’t been able to get past yet. They can change the world.”