Syracuse University Welcomes Ruby Bridges for the 2021 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Ruby Bridges, a civil rights icon, activist, author and speaker, will serve as keynote speaker for the 36th annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Syracuse University. The event, known as the largest of its kind on any college campus, will take place online on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET. Registration is free and open to all on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration website.

Bridges, one of the first African American students to attend an all-white elementary school in the South, will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, as well as the impact of education in sparking and sustaining social change.

“We are honored to host Ruby Bridges as our keynote speaker,” says the Rev. Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel and co-chair of the organizing committee. “Over 60 years ago she displayed groundbreaking courage and life-changing compassion, and today she continues to embody a daring faith that is so dearly needed in our time and beyond. We are fortunate to host her. She is the right person for the right time.”

Sixty years ago, in November 1960, then 6-year-old Bridges was escorted past angry crowds that gathered daily near the steps of William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. The image of federal marshals walking Bridges to class became part of the iconic “The Problem We All Live With” painting by acclaimed artist Norman Rockwell. Despite the angry mobs and threats hurled toward her each day, Bridges refused to miss a single day of school. She blazed a trail for others to follow and has since inspired generations of students in the United States and beyond.

“Ruby Bridges is an inspiration. Many students, including myself, learned about her story when we were in elementary school. She is an integral part of our country’s living history,” says Sean Dorcellus ’21, student co-chair of the organizing committee. “She is an excellent choice as a speaker, as she connects the past with the present and brings motivation for us to create a better future.”

Learn more about Bridges’ life and work on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration website.

Due to COVID-19 guidelines and a commitment to health and safety, the 2021 MLK Celebration will be held fully online. In addition to the keynote address featuring Bridges, the event will also feature community and student performances, the presentation of the 2021 Unsung Hero Awards, and several new and interactive pre-celebration programs.

2021 MLK Virtual Event Series schedule:

  • MLK Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 18.
  • Dinner at Home: Virtual Cooking Classes with Salt City Market on Monday, Jan. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 26, at 6 p.m. ET
  • Life with Purpose: A Conversation with Maya Moore, athlete and activist on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 8 p.m. ET
  • Sheroes of Poetry: Spoken Word Poetry by Women Authors on Friday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. ET
  • 36th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration with Ruby Bridges on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET

Registration for the 2021 MLK Celebration and all pre-celebration programs is free and open to all. Visit the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration website for full descriptions of the programs. Closed captioning and American Sign Language will be provided at all events.

“While each year we look forward to gathering on campus for a dinner and program, we are doing all that we can to ensure a meaningful and memorable experience,” says Syeisha Byrd, director of the Office of Engagement Programs at Hendricks Chapel and member of the planning committee. “While this year will be different than the previous 35 years of MLK Celebrations, we are committed to cooperating with community partners to ensure an inclusive and engaging experience. This will be a memorable program for what has been a memorable year.”