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Mom Walked Her Daughter to School—and Into History

Lucille Bridges, 'a Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,' dies at 86
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 11, 2020 7:27 AM CST

(Newser) – Lucille Bridges, the mother of civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, who walked with her then-6-year-old daughter past crowds screaming racist slurs as she became the first Black student at her all-white New Orleans elementary school, has died at the age of 86, per the AP. "Today our country lost a hero" and "a Mother of the Civil Rights Movement" who was "brave, progressive, a champion for change," Ruby Bridges wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. "She helped alter the course of so many lives by setting me out on my path as a six year old little girl." Bridges gave birth to Ruby in Tylertown, Miss., in 1954—the same year as the landmark Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, decision that ended racial segregation in schools. Her daughter went on to become an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, memorialized in Norman Rockwell's famous painting "The Problem We All Live With."

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The painting depicts a tiny Ruby in a white dress carrying her notebooks and a ruler surrounded by US Marshals. But Ruby Bridges credited her parents as "the real heroes" behind her history-making achievement. "They (sent me to that public school) because they felt it was the right thing to do," the US Marshals Service once quoted her as saying. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Ruby's father, Abon Bridges, who died in 1978, was initially reluctant to send his daughter to the all-white William Frantz Elementary School as a first-grader in 1960, at the request of the NAACP, after the family moved to New Orleans. But his wife insisted. According to the National Women's History Museum, Lucille Bridges wanted her daughter to have the education she never had and walked her to school every day. "Mother and daughter both revealed their character and courage," said Cantrell.

(Read more obituary stories.)

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