Civil rights activist, writer, publisher. Born Daisy Lee Gatson on
November 11, 1914, in Huttig, Arkansas. Bates’s childhood was marked by
tragedy. Her mother was sexually assaulted and murdered by three white
men and her father left her. She was raised by friends of the family.
a teenager, Bates met Lucious Christopher “L. C.” Bates, an insurance
agent and an experienced journalist. The couple married in the early
1940s and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas. Together they operated the
Arkansas State Press, a weekly African-American newspaper. The paper
championed civil rights, and Bates joined in the civil rights movement.
She became the president of Arkansas chapter of the National
Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1952.
the head of the NAACP’s Arkansas branch, Bates played a crucial role in
the fight against segregation. In 1954, the United States Supreme Court
declared that school segregation was unconstitutional in the landmark
case known as Brown v. Board of Education. Even after that ruling,
African American students who tried to enroll in white schools were
turned away in Arkansas. Bates and her husband chronicled this battle
in their newspaper.
In 1957, she helped nine African American
students to become the first to attend the all-white Central High
School in Little Rock, who became known as the Little Rock Nine. The
group first tried to go to the school on September 4. A group of angry
whites jeered at them as they arrived. The governor, Orval Faubus,
opposed school integration and sent members of the Arkansas National
Guard to prevent the students from entering the school. Despite the
enormous amount of animosity they faced from white residents of the
city, the students were undeterred from their mission to attend the
Bates’ home became the headquarters for the battle to
integrate Central High School and she served as a personal advocate and
supporter to the students. President Dwight D. Eisenhower became
involved in the conflict and ordered federal troops to go to Little
Rock to uphold the law and protect the Little Rock Nine. With U.S.
soldiers providing security, the Little Rock Nine left from Bates’ home
for their first day of school on September 25, 1957. Bates remained
close with the Little Rock Nine, offering her continuing support as
they faced harassment and intimidation from people against
Bates also received numerous threats, but this
would not stop her from her work. The newspaper she and her husband
worked on was closed in 1959 because of low adverting revenue. Three
years later, her account of the school integration battle was published
as The Long Shadow of Little Rock. For a few years, she moved
to Washington, D.C., to work for the Democratic National Committee and
on antipoverty projects for the Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration.
returned to Little Rock in the mid-1960s and spent much of her time on
community programs. After the death of her husband in 1980, she also
resuscitated their newspaper for several years, from 1984 to 1988.
Bates died on November 4, 1999, Little Rock, Arkansas.
career in social activism, Bates received numerous awards, including an
honorary degree from the University of Arkansas. She is best remembered
as a guiding force behind one of the biggest battles for school
integration in the nation’s history.
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