Daisy Bates


Daisy Bates


A lead activist in the desegregation of Little Rock high school


Hosanna Nelson


Photo Credit: Wikipedai

Birth Date



Huttig, Arkansas

Death Date



Activist, Journalist

Biographical Text

Daisy Bates’ fight for justice began long before the world knew her name. As a black woman born and matured prior to the Civil Rights Movement, she experienced the segregation and legal racism that came because of her skin tone. When she was a child, one of the first encounters she had with prejudice was when a butcher chose to keep serving the white clientele even after she placed her order for some meat (Calloway-Thomas, Garner, 1996). Though the separation by skin color was a part of her culture, this was one of the first times that being an African American disadvantaged her. As she grew older and more involved as an activist for equality, her business as a newspaper company, State Press, came under frequent boycotting. These obstacles seemed to fuel Daisy’s passion for justice even more. When faced with an obstacle, she didn’t back off or give up, she threw her whole being into dismantling the injustice and doing so in a way that would send ripples throughout history for her daring to change the norm.

A significant event of the Civil Rights Movement was the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). This case determined that the segregation by skin color was unconstitutional in schools, striking down the previous case that had shaped state and federal laws, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which stated segregation was allowed as long as the groups were treated equally. The implications of Brown v. Board of Education were widespread, tumultuous, and contributed to the movement in America that fought for the equality of people of color. Though the court case changed the laws of the land, application was difficult and long in coming. To begin desegregating schools, especially of the progressively stagnant southern states, a leader was needed to organize, implement, and follow through with the plans. Such a person was found in Daisy Bates, a woman who dared to change the social climate for nine students of color to become enrolled at an all-white institute, Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Why was this school so important? The integration of Central High School could fill many textbooks with the layers of its complexity. Due to it being the very first school to become desegregated since Brown v. Board of Education three years previous was decided, there was a plan set in place to integrate nine students of color into the school, and to make sure they were safe going to and from the institution. Daisy Bates’ house became the official meeting place for the students prior to attending school and before returning home. She was active in ensuring the safety of the nine students. The world needed a strong person to champion this cause and Daisy Bates was the woman who fit the job description. Because she successfully integrated the nine students into Central High School, it became an example of a school desegregation. This was the beginning of other schools following suit, though there were many other struggles that came with this movement (Jacoway, 2007).

Most well known for her spearheading of the Little Rock desegregation, Daisy Bates was involved long afterwards in the social justice movement. She was a prominent speaker at rallies and conferences and a true leader. Heavily involved especially during the Civil Rights Movement, including working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference executive committee. When former President Lyndon B. Johnson was in office, she was a part of the anti-poverty programs. Even after suffering a stroke in 1959, she remained involved in her local community, in bettering different parts of their town such as the streets and sewage system. She passed away on November 4, 1999, after a long and full life of campaigning for human rights.


Calloway-Thomas, Carolyn and Thurmon Garner, “Daisy Bates and the Little Rock School Crisis: Forging the Way” Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 26, No. 5, Special Issue: The Voices of African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement (May 1996), 616-628.

Jacoway, Elizabeth. Turn Away Thy Son. Free Press, Simon & Schuster, 2007.

Reed, Linda. “The Legacy of Daisy.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Spring, 2000), 76-83.


daisy bates.jpg
Date Added
April 26, 2017
Reform (Social or Labor)
Item Type
Hosanna Nelson, “Daisy Bates,” Women Who Dared, accessed July 16, 2024, https://womenwhodared.omeka.net/items/show/73.