Self Awareness Vehicle Who Are You
The Great Civil Rights Leader Daisy Bates
Daisy Gatson Bates 1922-1999
When children reach the door of their school, they are sometimes greeted by a teacher or principal. They go through the school day learning their lessons without fear. This is not the way it was in 1957 for the nine black students. They were attempting to enter the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. A law passed stating that blacks had the right to attend the same public schools as whites. A woman named Daisy Bates played a major role in seeing that this law was obeyed.
Daisy Gatson was born in Huttig, Arkansas, in 1922. At age 8, she learned from a playmate that the Gatsons were not her real parents. Her mother was kidnapped and killed by a White mob. Her father was very upset by his wife’s violent murder and had placed Daisy in the care of the Gatsons. After high school, Daisy attended Philander Smith and Shorter Colleges in Little Rock. In 1941, Daisy married L.C. Bates, a newspaperman. Together they started a newspaper called the Arkansas State Press. They began writing about all the problems facing black people. They spoke out against job discrimination, police brutality, poor housing, unequal education, and other injustices. The Bates and their paper became a major voice for the civil rights of blacks. In 1942, Daisy covered the story of the cold-blooded killing of a black soldier by a white policeman. She reported every terrible detail of the murder. Her story made the white business people very angry. The newspaper lost their support because of this. Still, Bates began working 18 hours a day, and the newspaper’s readers soon grew to 20,000. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal. This was the famous Brown vs. Board of Education case. Daisy Bates and the state’s NAACP began to press the Board of Education in Little Rock to follow the law. They selected 17 black teenagers to enroll in Central High School. However, 8 withdrew out of fear, and only 9 were brave enough to try to enter the school. The students became known as the “Little Rock Nine.” Whites did not want blacks to attend the school, and the governor agreed. He sent the National Guard to keep out the black students. Whites turned their anger on Daisy. They threw rocks at her windows, burned crosses in front of her home, and threatened her life. The Arkansas State Press was forced to shut down. Through all this, Daisy and the “Little Rock Nine” remained brave. Across the country, newspapers, television, and radio told the story of what was happening in Little Rock. It was soon that the President ordered the U.S. Army to protect the black students and restore order. The “Little Rock Nine” finally entered Central High School and made history. Daisy Bates continued her battle for the equal rights of blacks. She was a speaker at the great “March on Washington” in 1963. Because of her outstanding efforts, the NAACP gave her and the “Little Rock Nine” their highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. In addition, Daisy Bates has received more than 40 awards and degrees.
Excerpt from A Gift of Heritage – Black Civil Rights Leaders.
This is only a summary of the life of Daisy Gatson Bates.