Daisy Bates organized the "Little Rock Nine"
On this date we remember the birth of Daisy Bates. She was an African American civil rights activist who coordinated the integration of the Little Rock Central High School.
Born in 1912 in Huttig, Ark., Daisy Lee Gatson Bates never knew her parents; her mother was killed by three white men after she resisted their sexual advances. Her father left town, fearing reprisals if he sought to prosecute those responsible. Orlee and Susie Smith, friends of her parents, adopted her. In 1941, she married L.C. Bates, a journalist. They moved to Little Rock, AR, and established a newspaper, the Arkansas State Press; it became the leading African- American newspaper in the state and a powerful voice in the Civil Rights Movement.
It was as president of the Arkansas state conference of the NAACP that Bates coordinated the efforts to integrate Little Rock's public schools after the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregated public schools in 1954. Nine African-American students, the "Little Rock Nine," were admitted to Little Rock's Central High School for the 1957-1958 school year. Violent white reaction against integration forced President Dwight D. Eisenhower to order 1000 army paratroopers to Little Rock to restore order and protect the children.
Bates was the students' leading advocate, escorting them safely to school until the crisis was resolved. She continued to serve the children, intervening with school officials during conflicts, and accompanying parents to school meetings. In 1962, Bates published her memoir of the Little Rock crisis, "The Long Shadow of Little Rock."
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.
Today in American History