Daisy Lee Gatson Bates and the Little Rock Nine: Desegregating Schools in Arkansas

Written by Rewindingblack

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates, was born November 11, 1914.  She was a Civil Rights Activist, publisher, journalist and lecture. She played a major role in the Little Integration Crisis of 1957. She was raised by foster parents, who she believed were her natural birth parents. As a child she learned that her birth mother had been raped and killed by white men. After learning about her mother’s death at such a young age, she became filled with anger.

However, on his death bed her foster father, Orlee Smith gave her some advice. He said. “You’re filled with hatred. Hate can destroy you Daisy. Don’t hate white people just because they’re white. If you hate, make it count for something. Hate the humiliations we are living under in the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the soul of every man and woman. Hate the insults hurled at us by white scum-and then try to do something about it, or your hate won’t spell a thing.”

It is from those words from Bates father that she gained her strength to go on to be a great leader. Her biological father was in her life at one point, but left shortly after the death of her biological mother. Daisy started dating at 15, and met her future husband and then moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. They continued to date until they were married on March 4, 1942. It wasn’t long before the two opened a newspaper business together.

The paper, The Arkansas State Press was primarily concerned with advocacy and was much like other African-American newspapers of that time. Most of the stories were about civil rights and the achievements of the Black people of the state. Bates become the president of the Arkansas State Conference of the NAACP. She was very involved in desegregation. Even though in 1954 the United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education made all the segregated schools illegal, the schools in Arkansas refused to enroll students.

Bates and her husband held important roles in among the African-Americans in the state.  The plan for to desegregate the schools started in 3 phases, when it was all done the court ordered the school districts to desegregate in 1957.  Daisy later realized her dedication and involvement to the school segregation so she helped the students fight every step of the way. Bates advised the students on how to enroll, there was a lot of confrontations, white mobs waiting for the students. However, it did not stop the students, nor Daisy helping them. Eventually, President Eisenhower had to call in the troops to monitor the situation. Once they arrived the desegregation continued on. A significant role of Daisy Bates during the Civil Rights Movement was the advocating and mentoring of the Little Rock Nine. Her house became a national historic landmark because of her role during the desegregation of schools.


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