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Who Was Daisy Bates, and What Effect Did She Have on the United States Civil Rights Movement?

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Jake LeBlanc

American History

Caitlin Kingsley

16th December 2015

Who was Daisy Bates, and what effect did she have on the United States Civil Rights movement?

In today’s society, it’s appalling to think that something as strident as segregation was legal only 70 years ago. Having a group of people be isolated from another group of people just by the color of their skin and their origin is a grating and upsetting thought. Elementary, middle, and high schools were all segregated because of the fact that some individuals are of a different color than someone else, which would upset any person with decent morals. Segregation upset Daisy Bates in specific, and she was determined to fight for what she believed in and to make a change in the fight for civil rights.

Daisy Bates was a civil rights activists in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Bates focused on programs that would better society and give equal rights to minorities in America, specifically black Americans. Bates grew up in Huttig, Arkansas and was raised by her father’s best friends, Orlee and Susie Smith. Bates did not have her mother or her father when she was growing up, as the mother had died and her father left quickly after. Bates’ had found out at a young age that her mother had not died of natural causes, but was murdered and ravished by three neighborhood white men. Bates acquired this information after hearing taunts that the neighboring white children would hurl at her; they would often tell her to not be so arrogant, and that she would not be this arrogant if she knew the truth surrounding the circumstances of her mother’s death (Daisy Bates, Par. 4). Bates talked to a family member and discovered her mother was raped, slaughtered, and thrown to the bottom of a lake by three white men. This caused the father to leave because he was scared of retaliation from white individuals if he were to prosecute against the men who butchered his wife. Ever since Bates found out about the horrifying revelations of her mother’s death, anger has filled her every pore. Smith even told her a quote that did nothing but fuel her passion for civil rights and made her to be the women that we know her as today, which is as follows:

"Don't hate white people just because they're white. If you hate, make it count for something. Hate the humiliations we are living under in the south. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the soul of every black man and women. Hate the insults hurled at us by white scum--then try to do something about it, or your hate won't spell a thing."

This quote was stated by Mr. Smith as he was lying on his deathbed, the last moment that him and Bates spent together. This quote empowered Bates and opened her eyes; she realized that she had many misgivings about the death of her mother and that she felt extremely strong about equal rights for black individuals in the United States of America. Bates did not sit around for long; she got married to Lucius Bates in 1942 and created an empire; an empire called the Arkansas State Press.

The Arkansas State Press was founded in 1941 and quickly gained notoriety for the topics that many other white newspapers would not cover in a lifetime. The Arkansas State Press was an extremely crucial and important part of Arkansas due to the fact that it was by far the most powerful black newspaper throughout the entire state. Often on its covers were stories that covered black rights and offenses committed against black individuals, such as murders and police shootings. This paper was an outlet for many black individuals who felt like they were trapped in a society that was dominated by white people. Bates gave people a way to release their frustrations and feel hope again due to the content matter that she would cover, which would range anywhere from the fight for black rights to ways you can join the movement and have your voice heard. Bates took this paper seriously and that was shown to the general public; to this day, the Arkansas State Press continues to be a in-circulation paper that still has millions of readers. Alas, with all black rights movements, there will always be a group of people to try and take you down, and in this case, it was white customers.

During this time period, WWII was just beginning and racial tensions were as high as ever. At the beginning of the war, a major training area for the Arkansas Army National Guard named Camp Robinson had reopened. Camp Robinson was located right outside of Little Rock, and a large number of black soldiers from northern cities came down to Camp Robinson to train and serve within the army. This within itself created a major rift for white people, as they felt threatened by any person of color.

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