Lucille Bridges – mother of civil rights activist Ruby Bridges – has passed away at the age of 86. In 1960, Ruby became one of the first Black students to attend the previously segregated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. Flanked by federal marshals, Lucille walked her 6-year-old daughter to school every day past a crowd of screaming, racial slur-spewing white protesters. The mother and daughter’s acts of courage helped spur the Civil Rights Movement and inspired Normal Rockwell’s painting, “The Problem We All Live With.”
Ruby took to her Instagram account on Tuesday evening (Nov. 10) to confirm her mother’s passing.
“Today our country lost a hero,” she wrote. “Brave, progressive, a champion for change. She helped alter the course of so many lives by setting me out on my path as a six year old little girl. Our nation lost a Mother of the Civil Rights Movement today. And I lost my mom. I love you and am grateful for you. May you Rest In Peace.”
On Twitter, many shared an image of Kamala Harris walking side-by-side with Ruby’s first-grader shadow, depicted in the Rockwell painting. Social media users remembered that after walking her daughter to an all-white school, Lucille lived long enough to see the first Black woman be elected vice president.
“My parents are the real heroes,” Ruby once said at an art gallery showing the painting, as quoted by the U.S. Marshals Service. “They [sent me to that school] because they felt it was the right thing to do.”
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell paid tribute to Lucille’s influence on Twitter and remembered that Ruby’s father had been initially reluctant to send his daughter to the elementary school. It was Lucille, the National Women’s History Museum states, who insisted Ruby attend the school because she wanted to ensure her daughter got the education she was never able to have.
“Lucille’s strength was unbounded during this period,” Cantrell wrote on Twitter. “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 we mourn the loss of one of the mothers of the Civil Rights Movement in New Orleans with the passing of Lucille Bridges…” she added. “May she rest in God’s perfect peace.”
A mother of five, Lucille gave birth to Ruby in Tylertown, Mississippi in 1954 – the same year that Brown vs. the Board of Education ended racial segregation in schools.
See some tributes to the civil rights icon below. Rest in peace.