November 11 - Happy Birthday, Daisy Bates

Posted on November 11, 2018

There have been so many awesome black women I have written about over the past year or two - and today's famous birthday is yet another!

Another activist, journalist, lecturer. One of the rare-for-then black publishers. Another Civil Rights icon.

Daisy Bates was born on this date in 1914 in Arkansas. She was adopted when she was only a few months old, and when she was only 8 years old she learned why: her mother was murdered, and her father had no way to raise a tiny baby while working his job at the mill. 

Daisy's mother was killed by three white men - and I won't get into the horrific, sickening details - but murder was barely investigated by the (white) police, and the killers were never found.

When Bates was a married adult, she and her husband started a weekly newspaper called the Arkansas State Press. It featured civil rights stories on the front page and stories of the achievements of black Arkansans throughout much of the rest of the paper. This newspaper was recognized as a voice for civil rights even before the nationwide Civil Rights Movement.

Bates had also been involved with the NAACP and was elected president of one of its branches.

Notice that Daisy Bates was featured alongside Jackie Robinson
and Dr. Martin Luther King!
Bates and her husband fought against school segregation - which was at that point illegal but still happening in Arkansas - through the power of the press and through publicizing the NAACP's protest events. 

But Daisy Bates was even more hands-on with integration: she was the one who guided and advised the "Little Rock Nine," the nine black students who dared to enroll in the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School. She arranged for ministers to escort the kids to school. Her house was the official drop-off and pick-up point for the kids, and Bates communicated often with the kids' parents. She joined the PTA of the high school (even though she didn't have a child there). In part because of her persistence, the kids did enroll, did attend, and eventually things did get better.

Whenever you see photos of the Little Rock Nine being escorted to
school, you see soldiers, not ministers, doing the escorting.

That's because the first few days of tension and some violence
prompted President Eisenhower to federalize the Arkansas
National Guard, and he deployed soldiers to guard the students
and enforce the law - including the Supreme Court decision
that schools must be integrated.

Now the Little Rock Nine are honored by statues!

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