The Female Lead

Daisy Gatson Bates – The Woman behind the Little Rock Nine

Today we are celebrating Daisy Gatson Bates. She played an instrumental role in the Little Rock Schools Integration in Arkansas in 1957.

Daisy was a civil rights activist, journalist, and lecturer and played an instrumental role in the Little Rock school’s integration. 

Aged 3, she witnessed her mother being killed by three white men. This event resulted in her dedicating her life to bringing an end to racial injustice. Following years of foster care, aged 15, Daisy met the man that would later be her husband and they set off traveling the South. They settled in Little Rock, Arkansas and started their own newspaper, The Arkansas Weekly, which is one of the only African American Newspapers focusing on the Civil Rights movement. 

Bates worked closely with local Civil Rights organisations and served as the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in Arkansas for many years. In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional. Bates often used the newspaper to publicise the schools that were making commitments to change and highlighted the downfalls of the public school in Arkansas that continued to reject African American students.

Bates actively encouraged African American students to enrol at all-white schools and was instrumental in organising the Little Rock Nine in 1957. Bates selected nine students to integrate at Central High School. She drove the students to and from school every day and ensured they were protected from the violent protestors. Due to her involvement, she was often threatened and as a result, the Bates family had to shut down their newspaper. Following the success of the Little Rock Nine, Bates continued to work on improving the rights of African Americans.

In 1962, she published her memoirs,The Long Shadow of Little Rock.’ Eventually, the book would win an American Book Award. Bates was invited to sit on the stage during the program at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.

 Bates was recognised following her death and awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1999. 

Today we remember Daisy Gatson Bates, a woman who changed the future of education across the United States.   ‘No man or woman who tries to pursue an ideal in his or her own way is without enemies’