When Daisy Bates was three years old her mother was killed by three white men. Although Bates, was just a child, her biological mother’s death made an emotional and mental imprint on her. The unfortunate death forced Bates to confront racism at an early age and pushed her to dedicate her life to ending racial injustice.
Daisy Bates was born in Huttig, Arkansas in 1914 and raised in a foster home. When she was fifteen, she met her future husband and began travelling with him throughout the South. The couple settled in Little Rock, Arkansas and started their own newspaper. The Arkansas Weekly was one of the only African American newspapers solely dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement. The paper was circulated state wide. Bates not only worked as an editor, but also regularly contributed articles.
Naturally, Bates also worked with local Civil Rights organizations. For many years, she served as the President of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her work with the NAACP not only transformed the Civil Rights Movement but it also made Bates a household name.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled segregated schools unconstitutional. After the ruling Bates began gathering African American students to enroll at all white schools. Often the white schools refused to let black students attend. Bates used her newspaper to publicize the schools who did follow the federal mandate. Despite the continuous rejection from many Arkansas public schools, she pushed forward.
When the national NAACP office started to focus on Arkansas’ schools, they looked to Bates to plan the strategy. She took the reins and organized the Little Rock Nine. Bates selected nine students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock in 1957. She regularly drove the students to school and worked tirelessly to ensure they were protected from violent crowds. She also advised the group and even joined the school’s parent organization.
Due to Bates’ role in the integration, she was often a target for intimidation. Rocks were thrown into her home several times and she received bullet shells in the mail. The threats forced the Bates family to shut down their newspaper.
After the success of the Little Rock Nine, Bates continued to work on improving the status of African Americans in the South. Her influential work with school integration brought her national recognition. In 1962, she published her memoirs, The Long Shadow of Little Rock. Eventually, the book would win an American Book Award. Bates was invited to sit on the stage during the program at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Due to a last-minute change, Bates was invited to speak at the march.
In 1968, Bates moved to Mitchellville, Arkansas. The majority black town was impoverished and lacked economic resources. When Bates arrived, she used her organizational skills to pull together residents and improve the community.
Bates died on November 4th, 1999. For her work, the state of Arkansas proclaimed the third Monday in February, Daisy Gatson Bates Day. She was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1999.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Often called “The Godmother of Rock and Roll,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe is hailed as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Shortly after the electric guitar was created, her passion for gospel music combined with her skill and showmanship on the instrument helped to develop the genre of rock and roll as we know it today. She is said to have inspired other up-and-coming stars including Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard.
Claudette Colvin: Did you know Rosa Parks wasn’t the only African American woman to famously resist bus segregation? Claudette Colvin was actually arrested several months before Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on the bus – at just 15 years old. She also served as one of the plaintiffs in the case that ruled Montgomery, Alabama’s segregated bus system, to be in violation of the constitution. She later said “Being dragged off that bus was worth it just to see Barack Obama become president… So many others gave their lives and didn’t get to see it, and I thank God for letting me see it.”
Gwendolyn Brooks: The author of more than 20 poetry books, Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for her work “Annie Allen.” She was also the first black woman appointed as consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, which is now known as Poet Laureate.
Bessie Coleman: Recognized as a pioneer for women in aviation, Bessie Coleman was the first black woman to earn a pilot’s license and stage a public flight in the United States, but her training actually happened in France. Since all flying schools in the U.S. had denied her entry, she taught herself French and earned her license from France’s famous Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in just seven months! She specialized in stunt flying, aerial tricks, and parachuting.
Wilma Rudolph: Even though she was stricken with polio as a child and was never expected to walk without a brace, Wilma Rudolph became a track star and was dubbed “the fastest woman in the world.” In 1960, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games. She was also a champion for civil rights and was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: According to the Huffington Post online, “Kennedy was a founding member of the National Organization of Women and one of the first black female lawyers to graduate from Columbia Law School. She helped found the Feminist Party in 1971, which later nominated Representative Shirley Chisholm for president.” She’s been called the “Black Feminist Fighter,” and asserted that she could “understand feminism [and sexism] better because of the discrimination against Black people.”
Mary Eliza Mahoney, born in 1845, had been a cook, a janitor and a washerwoman before she began working at the New England Hospital for Women and Children, according to Jacksonville University.
When she was 33, she entered the hospital’s 16-month nursing program and earned her certification.
In a 40-year career, Mahoney directed the Howard Orphan Asylum in Long Island, New York, and was a founding member of the group that became the American Nurses Association.
After retirement, Mahoney continued to fight for minority rights and in 1920 became one of the first women to register to vote in Boston.
Bethel Black History Moment
John Bass (photographed above) had a few different career paths in his life. He was a mechanic for TB Shannon, and he was also an Electrician for Al Davis among other occupations during his life in Iola. John also happened to be the first African American city employee for the City of Iola in the early nineteen-teens.
Hallie Quinn Brown (1850-1949), for whom the Central State University library is named, was an accomplished and acclaimed teacher, author, lecturer, elocutionist, and political activist. Born March 10, 1850 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miss Hallie began her teaching career shortly after her graduation from Wilberforce University in 1873. Between 1873 and 1892, she taught in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Ohio. In 1892, she was appointed dean of women at Tuskegee Institute and the following year accepted a professorship at Wilberforce University.
Miss Hallie launched her career as an elocutionist and lecturer in the late 1880s. She subsequently used her skills and popularity to raise funds for a number of projects, including a women's dormitory at Wilberforce University. In addition to her lectures and recitals in the United States, Miss Hallie engaged in several extensive tours of Europe. Her active and passionate involvement in human rights placed her in the forefront of the struggle for black civil rights and the woman's suffrage movement from the late 1880s until her death in 1949.
The Hallie Q. Brown Memorial Library contains the University's library collections of more than 300,000 volumes, over 847,163 pieces of microfiche and microfilm, 71 print current periodical titles, 30,000 bound volumes of periodicals, and collections of phonograph records, tapes, CDs, DVDs, and film. E-books account for over 100,000 and E-journals over 64,000.
Mrs. Bettye Williams Dixie is a sociology graduate of Tuskegee Institute (University), and she earned the M.Ed. degree in counseling from Pennsylvania State University. For nearly 30 years, Dixie served as a career counselor of individuals entering or re-entering postsecondary education. Her noble duties included personal adjustment counseling, interpreting tests and interest inventories.
As a dementia expert, Dixie has engaged dementia residents in nursing homes in art and music activities, important functions that have assisted these persons with needed coping skills. Moreover, she has trained nursing home staff and the general public in the unique causes of dementia, as well as how to best work with dementia patients.
The multitalented Dixie has worked in the fundraising sector for nearly decade for at least three worthwhile nonprofit organizations. She has served on the Board of Trustees for the Presbyterian Home for Children in Talladega, Ala., for two years. Since its founding in 1868, the Presbyterian Home for Children has led the state in providing services to Alabama’s at-risk children. The organization has provided clients with services aimed at preserving and reunifying families in their own home. This has been a proven and effective method to end cycles of abuse and neglect. PHC’s Secure Dwellings Program provides safe and affordable housing on the PHC campus to homeless children and their female caregiver, while dedicated staff work to minister to their needs by empowering the caregiver to achieve goals and reach self-sufficiency, as well as providing a haven for homeless children to rest, grow and play. Finally, the Supportive Housing communities throughout the state serve homeless children with their female caregiver.
Dixie has provided useful expertise for six years to Mission Haven, which offers affordable short-term housing and friendly hospitality to missionary families, as well as for students at local seminaries. Her affiliation with RiahRose Home for Children has centered around providing a home for homeless pregnant women and homeless families with young children.
Among her many affiliations are Fellowship Presbyterian Church U.S.A.; The Golden Charmers, an aggregate of older adults focusing on offering support and information on health issues, leisure pursuits, volunteerism, successful aging, financial well-being and faith in God; Presbyterian Women (moderator and vice moderator), nurturing faith through prayer and Bible study, and advocating for justice and peace; the Chancel Choir; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; and the Huntsville Spiritual Chorale, which performs and preserves the coveted Negro Spiritual.
Dixie is also actively involved in the Alpha Omega Chapter (founding member) of Eta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and its ongoing work to launch services for intellectually and developmentally disabled citizens. She has served as the organization’s president, vice president, chaplain, and membership intake coordinator.
She is married to Dr. Theodore Dixie, Sr., a retired Alabama A&M University professor, and they have one son, Ted, Jr.