Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock
By Juana G. Rodriguez
The Civil Rights Movement has been discussed several times. Who comes to mind? Is it Daisy Bates?
Throughout the years, history classes put a lot of emphasis on Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Harriet Tubman, or Rosa Parks. They exemplify extraordinary leaders and inspire many to strive for a successful life no matter the circumstances.
However, there are several other important individuals who were part of the Civil Rights Movement whom are not readily recognized. One person in particular is Daisy Bates. A special film screening of Daisy Bates: First Lady Of Little Rock, was held on campus recently in honor of Black History Month.
Treopia G. Washington, who currently serves as vice president of Partnerships and Minority affairs at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, was the keynote speaker at the screening. Washington grew up in Little Rock, Ark., during the segregation era where she attended all-black schools from elementary to high school.
Washington recalled “never feeling deprived of anything. We felt like a close knit family.” Washington was familiar with Bates through her brother Ernest Green, a member of The Little Rock Nine who challenged local school segregation laws by enrolling at Little Rock's Central High School in 1957, three years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools in its historic decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan.
Bates was the leader of the Little Rock Nine. She was also known for organizing boycotts. Bates only completed the eighth grade, however she worked hard to hide that fact, event organizers said. She fought for the children of the Little Rock Nine and inspired others to do the same because she wanted them to have the education they deserved.
As stated in the film, “She was willing to suffer the consequences of her actions. She was the soldier that put her life on the line for those children.”
As a group, women in the 1950s struggle for civil rights struggled to hold power in society, event organizers said. Bates was able to break that cycle. Most women in the movement were usually seen as assistants, however, Bates was a leader who was supported by her husband, L.C. Bates, who inspired her to fight for equality.
While Bates did not fix all of the problems of her time, her supporters said they believe that she definitely changed the course of history.