Daisy Lee Gatson Bates

After the 1954 Supreme Court decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case, civil rights activist Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (1914–1999) helped organize the Little Rock Nine—the first nine black children to attend Central High, a white school. She stood with them against the governor’s state troopers, escorted them to school, and finally, with the help of 1,000 paratroopers sent by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, walked with them as they entered the high school. She continued to work to improve the status of African Americans in the South, taking the issue of racial injustice seriously and personally. As a three-year-old child, she experienced the death of her mother at the hands of three white men. She dedicated her life to ending racial injustice—starting a newspaper, The Arkansas Weekly (some sources say The Arkansas Press), which was one of only a few African-American newspapers dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement; working with civil rights organizations and serving as president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP; and organizing the people of Mitchellville, Arkansas, to pull together and improve the community. She tells her life story in The Long Shadow of Little Rock (1962). Because of her work for racial justice, she received several honors: in 1957, she was named Woman of the Year by the National Council of Negro Women; in 1958, along with the Little Rock Nine, she received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP; in 1984, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville; she was memorialized when Arkansas proclaimed the third Monday in February as Daisy Gatson Bates Day; and, in 1999, following her death, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In February 2012, PBS aired a documentary. Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock.

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