Fifty-nine years ago today, Ruby Bridges’ decision to walk through the doors of an all-white elementary school, making her the first African American student to desegregate the school, propelled the civil rights movement to new heights.
To remember such an integral day in American history, #SeeHer Story, the digital video series from Katie Couric Media and PEOPLE, has chosen to honor Bridges, 65, and her bravery in this week’s episode.
The goal of #SeeHer Story is to recognize various female trailblazers ranging from the past 100 years to today and celebrate how they’ve helped to shape history and culture.
As this year marks the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the series hopes to commemorate such an important time for women in history.
The series — which is made up of short vignettes created and narrated by Couric — premiered on Oct. 18 and will air weekly on PEOPLE.com and @PeopleTV social handles.
Bridges’ story of activism began at only 6 years old, when she became the first — and only — black student in 1960 to attend William Frantz Elementary in New Orleans, following a federal judge’s orders to desegregate Louisiana public schools.
On her first day of school, Bridges was escorted by fire marshals past crowds of screaming protestors — an image that would later become the subject of an iconic Norman Rockwell painting — into the school, which was hardly more welcoming. Only one teacher was willing to take Bridges as a student, so Bridges spent the school year in a classroom of one, eating lunch alone and having only her teacher to play with at recess.
“I actually attended this all-white school alone. For a whole year, I sat in an empty classroom with a teacher that was white who came from Boston to teach me because teachers in New Orleans refused to teach black children,” said Bridges in the clip.
Challenges aside, Bridges remained strong — she didn’t miss a day of school and years later was recognized for becoming the first African American student to integrate a Southern elementary school.
She became such an icon of the civil rights movement that former President Barack Obama showed his gratitude for Bridges’ trailblazing by hanging up the Rockwell painting outside of the Oval Office in 2011.
“It’s fair to say that if it wasn’t for you guys, I might not be here and we wouldn’t be looking at this together,” Obama shared with Bridges at the time.
After seeing how much her story inspired others, Bridges added in the video, she “realized there was something much bigger” and wanted to share her experiences with the world.
Now, Bridges travels around the country, speaking to kids and imparting her wisdom with the hopes that her truth will inspire further acceptance and inclusivity.
#SeeHer Story will also be a regular feature in PEOPLE’s print edition, the weekday morning newsletter Wake-Up Call with Katie Couric, on PeopleTV’s entertainment show PEOPLE Now as well as on PEOPLE Now Weekend.