Daisy Bates

Black History Month – Daisy Bates (Part 1)

This Black History Month, we’re sharing some of the figures that have inspired us. We’d like to celebrate their contributions and efforts, which have resulted in meaningful change being made. These are only a few of the figures who have inspired us, with many more continuing to pioneer progression in society. To read more on the importance of Black History Month, visit https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/  

Daisy Bates

Early Life

Daisy Bates was born in 1914, in Arkansas. When she was just 3 years old, her mother was killed by three local white men, after which her father abandoned her. She was brought up by her mother’s close friends, and after finding out about how her mother was killed, began thinking about injustice. This started as anger towards white people for the injustices committed, but on her adoptive father’s deathbed, he told her something that would change her life.

‘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 black man and woman… —and then try to do something about it, or your hate won’t spell a thing.’

Little Rock

Daisy married Lucius Christopher Bates, moving to Little Rock where they began a new life together. As soon as they moved, Daisy joined the NAACP, focusing on reforming education, following her experiences of discrimination at school. They started a newspaper entitled The Arkansas State Press, dedicated to detailing violations of desegregation rulings. These rulings had been imposed by the Supreme Court but weren’t being followed through in practice. As a result, a lawsuit was filed against the Little Rock School District, which they won.

Nine black students were selected to attend Little Rock Central High School, who then became known as the Little Rock Nine. This angered the State Governor, Orval Faubus who ordered the National Guard to prevent their entry into the school, only allowing the white students to pass.

To deter the mob, Daisy planned for 4 ministers to escort the children into the school, for both physical protection and to make a statement against segregation. After chaos ensued and the school was dismissed on the first day of desegregation, President Eisenhower federalised the National Guard, using them to ensure that the court orders were followed through with.

When asked what she felt her most important contribution was, Daisy said that the fact that the Little Rock Nine had been able to go to school and remain there for the full year without being hurt was something which opened a lot of doors.

This was the first time that this kind of revolution had succeeded without a doubt.’

Later Years

Later in life, Daisy briefly moved to Washington, where she worked for the Democratic National Committee and served in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson. In order to pay tribute, Little Rock opened The Daisy Bates Elementary School and made the third Monday of every February a national holiday to celebrate Daisy Gaton Bates Day.

Stay tuned to our blog page for more stories about inspirational figures.

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