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Daisy Bates: From Little Rock to the U. S. Capitol 

Dr. E. Faye Williams

A few weeks ago you might have read about my family reunion and being a former teacher, I like to teach the little ones something about our history. To be honest the young teens were busy sharing their latest dance and cheerleading steps; however, to my pleasant surprise, my 6-year-old nephew, Francis, came to the lecture while others did whatever young teens like to do.  In the class, I offered two subjects. One was gun security in the home.  The other was African American History. 

Imagine my great surprise when the 6-year-old Francis told me he already knew about gun security because he learned that from his parents, but a greater surprise was the interest he showed in Black History. I put on the table a deck of Black History cards. He went through the stack and picked out the ones he wanted me to talk about. The first one was Daisy Bates.

The reason that was such a pleasant surprise was the fact that around the time we were talking, a memorial to Daisy Bates was being installed in the U.S. Capitol. In 2009, the organization for which I served as National President, installed Sojourner Truth.  My friend, former First Lady Michelle Obama, delivered the main address about Sojourner. Another friend, Cicely Tyson—a Delta-- performed the “Ain’t I A Woman” speech.

Now here we are finally with the fourth Black woman being installed with a memorial, led by two people from Arkansas whose families, no doubt, were even more strongly opposed to the part Daisy Bates played in our history: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Senator Tom Cotton! Did they finally see the light about equal justice or were they just there due to their positions in government? You may decide.

Daisy Bates is my Soror in Delta Sigma Theta.  While I am proud of her for that reason, there is more. 

Tragically as a 3-year-old child, her mother was killed by a white man, and naturally, that had a lasting negative impact on her.  It caused her to go to foster care.  After foster care, she was married young and moved to Little Rock, Arkansas.  She became a journalist and built a newspaper through which she dedicated her life to ending racial injustice. That was very dangerous, but she did it anyway.

When the Supreme Court ruled segregation in schools to be unconstitutional, she went about finding students to enroll in white schools, but they were often blocked.  She used her newspaper to publicize schools not following the federal law.  

Because of the work she did, she was forced to withstand economic, legal and physical intimidation.  She didn’t let that stop her. She even defended soldiers who faced police brutality.  She served as President of the Arkansas NAACP.

Many may remember her for struggling to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Gov. Faubus sent in the National Guard to keep Black students out of the school, but President Dwight Eisenhower then ordered the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to ensure the “Little Rock Nine” students would be able to attend school. He reminded Gov. Faubus that as President, it was his duty to defend federal laws and required to give full cooperation to the U.S. District Court. Those were the days in which Republicans were told they were required to follow Federal laws, and to ensure that others did the same.  We give thanks to Daisy Bates’ courage.

Soror Sarah Davidson who was a teen-aged civil rights mentee of Daisy Bates, was fortunate to attend the unveiling ceremony.  She said “Mrs. Bates did in death what many could not do in life. She brought Republicans and Democrats together with civility—something that is unusual today.”

~ (Dr. E. Faye Williams is President of


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