Lucille Bridges, mother of New Orleans civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, has died at the age of 86. Exactly 60 years ago, on November 14, 1960, Lucille Bridges dropped her daughter Ruby off for first grade at William Frantz Public School in New Orleans, which was under a federal court order to admit its first African American students. U.S. Marshals had to escort 6-year-old Ruby past angry white mobs and hostile local police officers. This is Lucille Bridges speaking in 2018, recalling that day six decades ago.
Lucille Bridges: “So many people just standing, screaming and hollering, ‘Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate. Two, four, six, eight, just tear that [bleep] away,’ and just every kind of thing they were saying, you know? But we just got out. … And they start pitching eggs and tomatoes and everything. But they didn’t hit us, because the marshals really took care. And when we walked to the step, when we got to the step, they had city policemen, and they says, ‘You cannot come in.’ And two of the marshals said, ‘The United States, the president, said we can.’”
The incident was immortalized in a 1964 Norman Rockwell painting titled “The Problem We All Live With.” That image, in turn, was recently adopted by artist Bria Goeller, who painted Kamala Harris, the first African American woman elected as vice president, casting the shadow of 6-year-old Ruby Bridges. On her Instagram account, Lucille’s daughter Ruby Bridges, now 66 years old, said, “Today our country lost a hero. 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.”