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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This holiday was instituted to remember the valor and achievements of civil rights leader Daisy Lee Gatson Bates, who took a leading role in the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis of 1957.
Daisy 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. And it was this case that ultimately bore fruit in the integration of Little Rock Central High School the following year.
Daisy Gatson Bates grew up in Arkansas’ segregated school system, and she knew all too well how false the dictum “separate but equal” really was. As an adult, she and her husband ran a newspaper that spoke out against this and other unfair and racially prejudiced policies of her time. She led the fight in court leading up to the integration battle at Little Rock Central High, and she was there to support brave students who enrolled when classes opened up.
Bates also was active in the NAACP and in other causes that fought for equality and fairness and against segregation and racism.
Around Daisy Gatson Bates Day each year, students in schools learn about the Civil Rights Movement during this time of year, and there are many local events in Little Rock and throughout the state of Arkansas held in her honor.