LAFAYETTE — Juanita Jackson Thibeaux was a Civil Rights Activist and educator in Lafayette for many years before passing away at the age of eighty-six on Saturday.
in 1954, Thibeaux was one of the eighty African American students to desegregate the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, guiding the way for her cousin, Georgia Syrie to follow her footsteps.
Syrie tells us that she started school a year after Thibeaux, and that her older cousin's perseverance and drive encouraged her to get the same education despite the challenges they both faced while in school.
"She could stand her ground," Syrie recalls about her cousin. "You would realize that eight or nine blacks on campus against eight or nine thousand wasn't easy."
Syrie recalls her first year in college, a year after it had been desegregated, as anything but a walk in the park.
"Days were hard... sometimes the teachers would ignore you, even if you were sitting right in front of them," Syrie says. "Something you thought, or you knew was right, they would mark it wrong."
Despite the hardships she faced, Syrie graduated four years later from UL and she thanks Thibeaux for that.
"She was my shoulder that I would lean on, because I was never loud, or a fighting person," Syrie says. "She took care of me."
Funeral services for Thibeaux will be held on Friday, February 26 at 11:00am at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in New Iberia. Anyone that cannot attend the funeral is invited to watch online at the Mount Calvary Baptist Church - New Iberia Facebook page.
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