The third Monday in February has been a state-level public holiday in Arkansas called “Daisy Gatson Bates Day” since 2001. The date is the same as President’s Day, which is also celebrated in Arkansas.
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Daisy Lee Gatson Bates was a civil rights leader who did much to help integrate Arkansas schools. She was key in the legal struggles associated with the case Aaron vs. Cooper in 1956. And it was this case that ultimately bore fruit in the integration of Little Rock Central High School the following year.
Besides her role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957, Bates was also a journalist and a public speaker. She knew what it was to attend a segregated school growing up, and she knew all too well how false the dictum “separate but equal” really was.
Bates was a leader in the NAACP and continued to fight for improved civil rights for African Americans throughout her life.
Around Daisy Gatson Bates Day each year, there are special learning activities on civil rights’ issues in Arkansas schools as well as some local events held in honor of Daisy Gatson Bates’ memory.