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Daisy Bates : Community Activism

Female rights and feminism are ideas that have gone back to the times of Ancient Greece, but it didn’t become a movement until much later. On February 3rd, 1870 the 15th amendment decreed that citizens of color, African descent, or those who were once in a position of servitude would be allowed to vote. Now, this may seem great, but a lot of the women of this time period were outraged, no matter what race they were; this seemed like a perfectly good time for the government to give full rights to women as well. This is about when the American women’s rights movement began.

Throughout this time, Elizabeth Candy Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglas fought for women’s suffrage, but it was a drawn out struggle. The 19th amendment was ratified on August 18th, 1920, but this still did not give all women the right to vote. Women of color were still discriminated against, and civilians would try to stop them from voting. Many acts have been passed over the years to promote more equality in the US, but even today, women, people of color, and people in the LBGTQ community are marginalized by other members of society. By the 1950s and 60s, the Civil Rights Movement really picked up, and with it, so did the feminist movement again. Many women like Corretta Scott King, Rosa Parks, Diane Nash, and June Jackson Christmas came to play significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement. They not only wanted to eliminate segregation, but they wanted to be independent, successful, career oriented women.

Amidst the demeaning chaos of segregation and discrimination, Daisy Bates took the time and energy to make a difference. Daisy Bates was born in Huttig, Arkansas in 1914. At the age of just three, Daisy’s mother was killed in a hate crime, forcing her to grow up in foster homes. She was married in 1942 and she and her husband started their own newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas to write about and advocate for the Civil Rights Movement. Their newspaper, The Arkansas State Press, was hugely impactful in the area and allowed Bates the opportunity to become the president of the Arkansas branch of NAACP, The National Association for Advancement of Colored People, in 1952.

As president of the NAACP, Bates was one of the primary strategists and influencers in what is known as the Little Rock Nine Integration Crisis. The Little Rock Nine were African American students that went against the force of the government to go to be educated in Central High School in Little Rock. At this point, the federal government had declared that segregation of schools was unconstitutional and had allowed African American students into the formerly white only schools. Unfortunately, the governor of Arkansas, Orval Eugene Faubus, was not accepting that this was the law. On September 4th, 1957, the governor used his power to keep the students out. He ordered the national guard to watch the doors of the school and keep any African Americans out. Not only were they prohibited from entering, but a sizable mob of angry segregationists stood outside the school yelling at the students and even throwing things at them. They were forced to leave, but they persevered; on September 25th, they returned to the high school under the protection of federal troops. Bates helped find and select the students who participated in the movement, and helped them get through their schooling. Bates was incredibly supportive of the Little Rock Nine; she even drove them to school when they needed it. She taught these students the skills they needed to get through the ordeal with non-violent and peaceful strategies.

Daisy Bates continued to advocate for civil rights and antipoverty throughout the rest of her life. She worked diligently to achieve equality for all groups in the US through her community. Furthermore, she spent the last part of her life benefitting the Little Rock community. She supported and promoted community projects, and she also reopened her newspaper for a little while. She died on November 4th, 1999; after her passing, she received several awards including a degree from the University of Arkansas, the Medal of Freedom, and Arkansas created “Daisy Bates Day” to be the third Monday in February.

Daisy Bates was one of the first African American women to be a president of a major organization and coordinate a hugely important protest against racial segregation and discrimination. She used peaceful tactics and thoughtful support to make a difference in society. Daisy Bates has shown girls and women that even in the hardest and most unfair times, women can do anything they put their minds to. Daisy Bates’s extreme accomplishment in desegregating schools in Arkansas led to a ripple effect of people being inspired to create change in their own community.

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