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Lucille Bridges, Mother of Civil Rights Trailblazer, Dies at 86

When she and Ruby arrived at the school for Ruby’s first day of school, she recalled, there were large numbers of federal marshals and protesters present. Some of the protesters screamed, “Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate,” and hurled eggs and tomatoes at Ms. Bridges and her daughter, she said. But the marshals prevented them from being struck.

Ruby Bridges said Wednesday that she could not recall her mother and father telling her anything other than that she would be going to a new school. “They didn’t try to explain to me what I was about to venture into,” she said. “But I just think that’s because it would be hard for any parent to prepare their kids to walk into an environment like that, so they didn’t try.”

Lucille Bridges recalled in the 2016 interview that two city police officers blocked their path as she tried to escort her daughter through the school doors, saying they could not come in. She remembered two of the marshals replying, “The United States president said we can.”

The marshals who took Ruby to and from school were heavily armed, keeping a machine gun in the car they drove. “And that’s the way we lived it for a whole year,” Lucille Bridges said.

The N.A.A.C.P. supported Lucille and Abon Bridges for several years because they lost their jobs when the integration of the school made headlines, and friends in their all-Black neighborhood took turns guarding their home.

Lucille Bridges, who enjoyed gardening, moved from New Orleans to Houston because of Hurricane Katrina, her daughter said. She remained in Houston for access to better health care and returned to New Orleans about five years ago.

Later in life, Ms. Bridges did not harbor ill will against the protesters. “All those people calling us names, you just have to charge that to their ignorance and just go on,” she said. “Be yourself, and God will bring you through.”

Lucille Bridges is survived by six children, numerous grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Study, listen to what their teachers tell them, and their mothers and fathers,” Lucille Bridges advised children during the 2016 interview. “After they get their education, they can be any person they wanted to be: doctors, lawyers or anything. But you have to have that education, and I would love for them to just listen to my story so they can know how hard it was for my kids to go to school.”


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