Daisy Bates

Daisy Bates

Daisy Lee Gatson was born in Huttig, Arkansas, on 11th November, 1914. When Daisy was eight her mother was killed during an attempt by three white men to rape her.

At the age of fifteen Daisy met L. C. Bates. The couple eventually got married and began publishing Arkansas State Press. The newspaper played an important role in the civil rights movement and attacked segregation in Arkansas.

Daisy Bates was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and in 1952 was elected president of the chapter in Arkansas.

After the Supreme Court announced in 1954 that separate schools were not equal and ruled that they were therefore unconstitutional. Some states accepted the ruling and began to desegregate. This was especially true of states that had small black populations and had found the provision of separate schools extremely expensive.

However, several states in the Deep South, including Arkansas, refused to accept the judgment of the Supreme Court. Bates now started to campaign for desegregated schools and in 1957 was a key figure in the campaign to get black students accepted by Central High School in Little Rock.

Arnold Zweig
Daisy Bates

Daisy Bates involvement in the civil rights movement resulted in a large slump in the advertising revenue of the Arkansas State Press and it closed in 1959. Her book, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, was published in 1962. Bates was the only woman who spoke at the March on Washington in 1963.

President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Bates to help administer his anti-poverty programs. She also worked in Washington for the Democratic National Committee. In 1968 Bates was appointed director of the Mitchellville OEO Self-Help Project.

Daisy Bates died on 4th November, 1999.

Primary Sources

(1) Daisy Bates, The Long Shadow of Little Rock (1962).

Faubus' alleged reason for calling out the troops was that he had received information that caravans of automobiles filled with white supremacists were heading toward Little Rock from all over the state. He therefore declared Central High School off limits to Negroes. For some inexplicable reason he added that Horace Mann, a Negro high school, would be off limits to whites.

Then, from the chair of the highest office of the State of Arkansas, Governor Orval Eugene Faubus delivered the infamous words, "blood will run in the streets" if Negro pupils should attempt to enter Central High School.

In a half dozen ill-chosen words, Faubus made his contribution to the mass hysteria that was to grip the city of Little Rock for several months.

The citizens of Little Rock gathered on September 3 to gaze upon the incredible spectacle of an empty school building surrounded by 250 National Guard troops. At about eight fifteen in the morning, Central students started passing through the line of national guardsmen - all but the nine Negro students.

I had been in touch with their parents throughout the day. They were confused, and they were frightened. As the parents

voiced their fears, they kept repeating Governor Faubus' words that "blood would run in the streets of Little Rock" should their teenage children try to attend Central - the school to which they had been assigned by the school board.

(2) Daisy Bates, New York Times (5th November, 1999)

Daisy Bates, a civil rights leader who in 1957 led the fight to admit nine black students to Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., died yesterday at a hospital there. She was 84.

In the integration struggle, rocks were thrown through her window, a burning cross was placed on her roof and the newspaper published by her and her husband, L C. Bates, was ultimately destroyed financially. But she nurtured the nine black children who faced vicious insults and physical intimidation. She encouraged them to be courageous, while striving to guard them against howling white mobs.

The result was one of the early major victories in the civil rights movement. The desegregation of Central High School with the aid of federal troops signaled that Washington would enforce the 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, which declared school segregation unconstitutional.

Mrs. Bates, as Arkansas president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was a central figure in the litigation that led to the confrontation in front of Central High, as well as the snarling scenes that unfolded in front of it.

The success of the Little Rock campaign, she later said, "had a lot to do with removing fear that people have for getting involved."