NEW ORLEANS – Lucille Bridges, the mother of Ruby Bridges, died in her sleep at 4:30 a.m. on November 10, 2020
Friends and family say she was an amazing human being with no hatred or bitterness about her experience. “Lucille was so humble, and never wanted any recognition, only a better world for all children,” said Sissy Lappin.
Lucille was 86 years old. Although she only has a 3rd grade education, she is described as a “great example of a true American Hero.”
Her daughter, Ruby Bridges is an icon of American racial integration as the first African American child to attend an all-white school in the south. She is famously depicted in Norman Rockwell’s painting “The Problem We All Live With” and is recognized as a symbol of the civil rights movement.
Although Ruby’s recognition is well-deserved, her mother, Lucille Bridges, is often unrecognized for what she has endured to get an education for her child and to pave the way for integration nationwide.
Lucille Bridges was born to sharecroppers in Mississippi and during her childhood, black children typically worked in the fields full time after completing 3rd grade.
Lucille ached for the same education and opportunities her white peers were privileged with and would cry as the school bus drove by without her. She vowed that her future children would not be denied equal education like she had been.
So, when the time came for her first child to begin school, Lucille made the decision to move to New Orleans to get her child the education they deserved.
Once in New Orleans, Lucille faced daily resistance from mobs who would throw eggs and tomatoes and yell unthinkable words at her while she walked her 6-year old daughter, Ruby, to school while escorted by federal Marshals.
And despite the threats and humiliation day after day, Lucille endured so her child could have a better life. Ruby is celebrated for being the first black child to go to an all-white school in the south, but Lucille sadly remains an unsung hero.
Mayor Cantrell issued the following statement on the death of Lucille Bridges:
“Today we mourn the loss of one of the mothers of the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans with the passing of Lucille Bridges — mother of five, including Ruby Bridges, who as a first-grader in 1960 was one of six African-American children to integrate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School. Lucille’s strength was unbounded during this period. Her husband was reluctant when the request came from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to participate. Lucille insisted, seeing the action as an opportunity to help all Black children, and walked Ruby, with federal marshals, past chanting and taunting white protesters and to the schoolhouse. Mother and daughter both revealed their character and courage. Today, folks recall Ruby as the little girl depicted in Norman Rockwell’s painting ‘The Problem We All Live With,’ and more recently might see a reimagining of the image now including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris walking alongside little Ruby. I think I speak for all mothers who want the best for their children when I hope for the same moral courage, bravery and love as that of Lucille Bridges. May she rest in God’s perfect peace.”
New Orleans Public Schools (NOLA-PS) released the following statement on the death of Lucille Bridges:
“On behalf of New Orleans Public Schools, we extend our sincerest condolences to Ruby Bridges on the passing of her mother, Lucille Bridges. We can only imagine the strength, courage, and determination that it took for Ms. Lucille Bridges to allow her daughter to endure the taunts and other expressions of hatred she experienced, as she sought to be the first black child to desegregate William Frantz Elementary School. As we approach the 60th Anniversary of that fateful day, we thank both Lucille and Ruby Bridges for opening the door so that others could follow and have more opportunities that would have not been possible. As we have conversations and events this week around the desegregation of schools, I ask that we also keep Ruby Bridges in our thoughts and prayers.”