President Barack Obama last week made a request to the Normal Rockwell Museum to hang the iconic painter’s art work inside the White House to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Ruby Bridge’s walk to integrate the William Frantz Public School in New Orleans on Nov. 14, 1960.
The painting portrays the little girl being ushered to school by deputy U.S. Marshals.
The museum noted in a press release the painting is on loan from its permanent collection and will be at the White House through the month of October.
I decided to post this bit of “news” because I’ve been reading The Warmth of Other Suns, which tells the stories of three people who became part of the Great Migration. While I’ve seen and heard people tell their stories about living in and coping with the Jim Crow era in the Deep South, the book does a fantastic job in giving vivid descriptions to give the reader an idea of how oppressive Jim Crow was for black Americans.
This painting reminds me of the utter hatred and outrage white Americans displayed at the thought of their children will be sharing bathrooms, classrooms and other school facilities with black folks. It reminds me of how deep the Jim Crow system so eloquently described in The Warmth of Other Suns ran in the veins and blood of those who created the caste system. This painting reminds me of this little girl and the countless of blacks in the south who stood up to tyranny to exercise their basic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the omnipresent caste system breathing down their backs.
What makes this little girl and other black folks living and fighting for their rights in that era so powerful is they most likely didn’t even contemplate the historic impact of their decisions to rise up. They merely were part of a collective body of people who grew tired of attending schools in run down, shoddy buildings, learning lessons from hand-me-down, outdated textbooks, having their education limited to the eighth-grade in some states and having their lives threatened by what white people thought were disrespectful slights and behavior.