Arkansas is the home of civil rights activist Daisy Lee Gatson Bates. Bates had been affected by racism early in life, her mother was raped and killed by malicious white men; a crime that was unpunished, filled her with hatred that she turned into something beautiful that inspired others. She was known for mentoring and leading the Little Rock Nine through desegregation in the 1950s and also helped integrate public schools in Little Rock, Arkansas. Central High School in Little Rock became one of the first practical tests of the principles enshrined in Brown v. Board of Education. Nine black students showed up for the first day of class, only to be turned away by the Arkansas National Guard. The Brown decision was an extremely significant moment in America’s journey for justice.
When she was 15 she had started courting a Mr. L. C. Daisy; at the time he was an insurance salesman and friend of the family, he later became her husband. They moved to Little Rock in 1941 where they dated for several more months; they later married on March 4, 1942. Bates and her husband were very known and active figures in the African American community. Together they published a local black newspaper, the Arkansas State Press, which focused on the Supreme Court’s desegregation rulings. Bates was very closely involved with the NAACP upon moving to Little Rock. She often expressed in her interviews and explained her history with the organization and that all her “dreams were tied to the organization.
In the State of Arkansas Bates has a very celebrated holiday; “Daisy Gatson Bates Day”, it falls on the third Monday in February. There’s also Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive (also known as 14th Street) was named in her honor in addition to several buildings in the area. The Drive goes past the north side of Little Rock Central High School and the south side of Philander Smith College. She has a host of honors and awards behind her name; in 1957 she was named woman of the year by the National Council of Negro Women, she was also the only woman to speak at the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington in 1963, an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, and there’s a school named in her honor, “Daisy Bates Elementary School”, located in Little Rock Arkansas.
Daisy Lee Gatson Bates was born on November 11, 1914; she died on November 4, 1999, but her contributions to this world will live on forever.