Speed Reads

a bridge too far

Ruby Bridges speaks out on book bans: 'Surely we are better than this'

Ruby Bridges is speaking out on efforts to ban books — including her own. 

The civil rights activist testified before Congress on Thursday in a hearing on "book bans and academic censorship." Last year, parents in Tennessee reportedly objected to teaching a book by Bridges, who at six years old became the first Black child to integrate a segregated school in New Orleans. 

Bridges testified that when she heard about efforts like these, she initially didn't respond because it "didn't deserve more attention." But she said that "as these bans have somehow gained even more momentum," she decided to speak out.

"My books are written to bring people together," she said. "Why would they be banned? But the real question is, why are we banning any books at all? Surely we are better than this. We are the United States of America with freedom of speech." 

Bridges went on to say her books highlight Americans who were "seeking the best version of our country," and they reflect "our shared history: good, bad, and ugly." After speaking about becoming "the poster child for the civil rights movement," she also told Congress that "rarely do children of color of immigrants see themselves" in textbooks taught in schools. 

"If we are going to have a conversation about banning books, then I say that conversation is long overdue," she said. "Let's have it. But it must include all books. If we are to ban books for being too truthful, then surely we must ban those books that distort or omit the truth." 

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) opened the hearing by stressing the importance of learning to "tolerate the speech you abhor, as well as the speech you agree with," adding, "If we cancel or censor everything that people find offensive, nothing will be left." 

Watch Bridges' full remarks below.