No. 41 ☆ Daisy Lee Gatson Bates was an American civil rights activist, publisher, journalist, and lecturer who played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. Born on November 11, 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas, she married journalist Christopher Bates and they operated a weekly African-American newspaper, the Arkansas State Press. Bates became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and played a crucial role in the fight against segregation as her home became the headquarters for the battle to integrate Central High School and she served as a personal advocate and supporter to the students.
As a public and highly vocal supporter of many of the programs of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Bates was selected in 1952 to serve as the president of the state conference of the organization’s Arkansas branch. After the U.S. Supreme Court deemed segregation unconstitutional in 1954, she led the NAACP’s protest against the Little Rock school board’s plan for slow integration of the public schools.
She personally began taking black children to the white public schools, accompanied by newspaper photographers who recorded each instance when the children were refused admission. This intense pressure induced the school board to announce its plan to commence desegregation at Central High School in September 1957.
On September 25, the day after President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered all Arkansas National Guard units and 1,000 paratroopers to enforce integration of the school, Bates and the students were escorted safely into the school. She continued to be an advocate for the students throughout their time at the school. Bates autobiograpy,“The Long Shadow of Little Rock,” documents the accounts.
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