Daisy Bates is synonymous with the legacy of Arkansas’ Little Rock Nine. One of only three women to later speak at the March on Washington, Bates was the chief advisor and spokesperson for the students who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School. Her city called her the “Lena Horne of Little Rock” because of her star quality.
Raised in a poor Huttig, Arkansas home, Bates lost her mother when she was a young chlld. At age eight, her father revealed to her that her mother was murdered by three white men during a rape attempt.
Bates served as president of the Arkansas NAACP, and her husband, L.C. Bates, ran the largest black newspaper in the state. The town racists stalked the family with death threats, burning crosses and vandalizing their home. When Bates heard of the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954, she publicly challenged the Little Rock School District to step up. Bates began taking black children to white schools to enroll and was, of course, denied. She and her husband went house to house looking for candidates.
As her role in the struggle grew, some felt that Bates was overstepping her bounds as a citizen and a woman. One of the Little Rock Nine students described her as overshadowing the students and the parents, inflating her involvement. But despite any opposition, the nine black students were escorted into Central High School via National Guard by orders of President Dwight Eisenhower. The children were picked up by military vehicle from the Bates’ home and taken to school.
When the nine Central High School students graduated, Bates stayed home in order to keep the spotlight on Dr. Martin Luther King, who was in attendance. Bates was known in town as an activist, and she didn’t supposedly didn’t want to be the source of violence on the day of Dr. King’s visit.
Bates’ work remains in the history books and is being showcased this month in the documentary presented by PBS called “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” by black filmmaker Sharon La Cruise. Bates also completed her own memoir, “The Long Shadow of Little Rock.”
Bates passed away in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1999 at age 84. Her body laid in state on the second-floor rotunda of the Arkansas Capitol, right near the office where Gov. Orval Faubus orchestrated his standoff in 1957.
(By: Erica Taylor, The Tom Joyner Morning Show )
Today’s “Little Known Black History Fact” was taken from Black America Web News.
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