New Speak Truth to Power Lesson Plan Honors Dr. Martin Luther King’s Legacy

“As a little kid, Ruby let me know that I too could make a difference. Creating this curriculum in honor of Ruby Bridges has instilled in me that my passion for advocating for human rights can coincide with my passion for mathematics. I hope this curriculum inspires others to abandon silence in order to be vociferous.”

—Jaala Weaver-Young, student, co-creator of STTP Ruby Bridges Lesson Plan

Whether she knew it or not, Ruby Bridges began her activism on November 14, 1960 at age six. Despite her small stature, she accomplished an enormous feat by enrolling in an all-white school in New Orleans at the height of racial discord in the United States. In doing so, she helped to activate the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, turning Bridges into the first elementary-aged African-American student to integrate a U.S. southern school after the historic ruling that outlawed segregated public schools. The decision to enroll Bridges sparked outrage among white Americans in the South, subjecting her to racial slurs, increased discrimination and a year of isolation when parents refused to have their children learn with her. Nevertheless, Ruby continued to study and fight for her right to a quality education.

Nearly sixty years later, when the Indianapolis Children’s Museum created an exhibit on Ruby Bridges, Herron High School teacher and Speak Truth to Power (STTP) lead educator, Michelle Haddix, knew her story was one to which her students would respond.

To ensure that her students fully understood Ruby’s role in breaking barriers, Michelle began to teach her class about the civil rights movement and education inequality in the United States. As she presented the material, Michelle found that, as her students learned more, they became even more engaged with Ruby and the issues surrounding education in America, ultimately inspiring them to take action. A few months later, the students had developed the Speak Truth to Power Ruby Bridges lesson plan, the first, out of 55, created by students.

On the morning of April 4th, the lesson plan debuted among students, teachers, members of the media and local politicians, including Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, and Kerry Kennedy. As students shared their own experiences with activism and discussed what it meant to speak truth to power with Kerry Kennedy and Mayor Hogsett, Congressman John Lewis made a surprise appearance, returning to Indianapolis for the first time since 1968 when he was with Robert F. Kennedy the night that RFK announced Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Following the school visit, students marched with Congressman Lewis, Kerry Kennedy and Mayor Hogsett to the nearby Kennedy King Memorial.

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s run for the White House, this event served as a perfect example of how we want to continue to honor Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy – by engaging communities of all ages in the celebration of human rights defenders, such as Ruby Bridges, and in the realization of their own capacity to make a difference.