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Daisy Bates

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (November 11, 1914 in Huttig, Arkansas – November 4, 1999 in Little Rock, Arkansas) was an American civil rights activist, publisher and writer who played a leading role in the Little Rock integration crisis of 1957.

Bates' mother was murdered while resisting three local white men who were attempting to rape her. Her father left the family shortly after her mother's death and she was raised by friends of the family, Orle and Susie Smith.

At the age of 15, Daisy became the object of an older man’s attention. L.C. Bates, an insurance salesman who had also worked on newspapers in the South and West. L.C. dated her for several years, and they married in 1942, living in Little Rock. The Bates decided to act on a dream of theirs, to run their own newspaper, leasing a printing plant that belonged to a church publication and inaugurating the Arkansas State Press. The first issue appeared on May 9, 1941. The paper became an avid voice for civil rights even before a nationally recognized movement had emerged.

In 1952, Daisy Bates was elected president of the Arkansas State Conference of NAACP branches.


Little Rock integration crisis

Bates and her husband L.C. Bates were important figures in the Little Rock Integration Crisis in 1957. The Bates published a local black newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, which publicized violations of the Supreme Court's desegregation rulings.

Bates guided and advised the nine students, known as the Little Rock Nine, when they attempted to enroll at Little Rock Central High School, a previously all white school, in 1957. The students' attempts to enroll provoked a confrontation with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who called out the National Guard to prevent the students from entering the school. White mobs met at the school, threatening to kill the black students; these mobs harassed not only activists but also northern journalists who came to cover the story. Bates was a pivotal figure in that seminal moment of the civil rights movement. As a publisher and journalist, she was also a witness and advocate on a larger scale.

The city council instructed the Little Rock police chief to arrest Bates and other NAACP officials; she and the local branch president surrendered voluntarily. They were charged with failing to provide information about members for the public record, in violation of a city ordinance. Though Bates was charged a fine by the judge, NAACP lawyers appealed and eventually won a reversal in the United States Supreme Court.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervened by federalizing the Arkansas National Guard and dispatching the 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to ensure that the court orders were enforced.

Their involvement in the Little Rock Crisis resulted in the loss of much advertising revenue to their newspaper and it was forced to close in 1959. In 1960, Daisy Bates moved to New York City and wrote her memoir, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, which won a 1988 National Book Award.

Later life

Then, Bates moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for the Democratic National Committee. She also served in the administration of President Lyndon Baines Johnson working on anti-poverty programs. In 1965, she suffered a stroke and returned to Little Rock.

In 1968, she moved to the rural black community of Mitchellville, Desha County, Arkansas. She concentrated on improving the lives of her neighbors by establishing a self-help program which was responsible for new sewer systems, paved streets, a water system, and community center.

Bates revived the Arkansas State Press in the 1980s after L.C. Bates, her husband, died in 1980.

In 1986, the University of Arkansas Press republished The Long Shadow of Little Rock, which became the first reprinted edition ever to earn an American Book Award. The following year she sold the newspaper, but continued to act as a consultant. Little Rock paid perhaps the ultimate tribute, not only to Bates but to the new era she helped initiate, by opening the Daisy Bates Elementary School and by making the third Monday in February "George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day" an official state holiday.

Bates died in Little Rock, Arkansas on 4 November 1999.

Honors and awards

  • 1988 American Book Award
  • Arkansas General Assembly Commendation
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree, University of Arkansas, 1984
  • Diamond Cross of Malta from the Philadelphia Cotillion Society
  • Arkansas has established the third Monday in February as "George Washington's Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day," an official state holiday.
  • The street that runs to the north of Little Rock Central High School, formerly 14th Street, has been renamed for her.
  • The Daisy Bates Elementary School in Little Rock is named in her honor.
  • Honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.


External links



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