Ruby Bridges to Receive Steinbeck Award

Media Contact: Pat Harris, 408-924-1748

Editor's note: As of February 22, this event is sold out. Ticketholders, please note that the venue has been moved from the Student Union Theatre to the Student Union Ballroom.

SAN JOSE, CA It has come full circle. On February 24, civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, whose travails were depicted by John Steinbeck in a section of Travels with Charley, will receive the John Steinbeck Award. The award presentation will culminate an evening featuring an onstage interview of Bridges by KQED's Joshua Johnson.

"An Evening with Ruby Bridges" is slated for 7:30 P.M. (doors open at 7) on Wednesday, February 24, in the Student Union Ballroom on the campus of San Jose State University. Tickets are available at the Event Center Box Office (408-924-6333) or at

In 1960, the NAACP selected a 6-year-old girl to break the color barrier of an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. The transition proved perilous. White parents removed their children from classes; and every school day, angry protesters jeered at Ruby Bridges as she walked the steps of William Frantz Elementary School, surrounded by federal marshals.


The Problem We All Live With by Normal Rockwell

“The Problem We All Live With” by Norman Rockwell (1964). Oil on canvas. 
Collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.


Ruby Bridges has been called the youngest foot soldier of the civil rights movement. She entered the history books when she entered first grade. But her role in the cause of social justice did not end there. Ruby has been a frequent speaker at schools and universities on the topic of racial tolerance, and she has served as spokesperson for First Book, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide disadvantaged children with new books.

"John Steinbeck expressed concern over an injustice and wrote sympathetically of me when I was a young girl," said Ruby Bridges. "In a way, we've come full circle. I now get to honor him by receiving an award bearing his name. I'm so proud to be part of this." 


Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges


The John Steinbeck Award is sanctioned by the Steinbeck estate and is offered by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University. The award is presented to artists and activists whose work exemplifies the spirit of Steinbeck's social engagement. Past recipients include musician Bruce Springsteen, Kite Runner author Khaled Hosseini, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta, and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Stated Ted Cady, member of the board of the Center for Steinbeck Studies and producer of Steinbeck Award events: "We applaud Ruby Bridges for her efforts in behalf of children's education and in support of human dignity versus blatant racism. Ruby Bridges not only resonates with the values of John Steinbeck, she is part of the literature of John Steinbeck. That makes her a very special recipient of the John Steinbeck Award."

About San Jose State
The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 140 areas of study and 100 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 33,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.