Daisy Bates Papers, 1946-1966

Scope and Content Note

The papers of Daisy Bates have been arranged in eight major series: General Correspondence; Speeches and Statements; The Long Shadow of Little Rock: drafts and manuscripts; Little Rock School Integration Crisis; NAACP Records; Reference and Subject Files; Audio Recordings; and Photographs.

The GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE primarily consists of letters regarding speaking engagements, honors and awards dinners and programs, and similar social correspondence. A few letters from the early 1950s are personal in nature, while correspondence from the period after publication of Mrs. Bates' book mainly deals with accolades she received, promotion of book sales, and autograph parties. She received many letters during and immediately after the 1957 desegregation of Central High School; many writers admired her stance and her efforts, and commiserated with her about obstacles they encountered. There is also a small amount of hate mail present.

Mrs. Bates' SPEECHES AND STATEMENTS include biographical sketches and resumes, as well as typewritten and annotated copies of speeches delivered before clubs, organizations, awards dinners, and the like. Approximately half of the speeches are dated; others are not, and may have been drafts of later, dated versions. Also includes fragments of speeches and notes, as well as speeches of other individuals. There are also programs from many of the occasions when Mrs. Bates spoke, appeared on the program, or was a prominent sponsor of an event.

THE LONG SHADOW OF LITTLE ROCK: Drafts and Manuscripts series contain notes, partial and complete drafts of many stages of the manuscript, and, for many chapters, the final version as well. These are arranged by chapter, or by groups of chapters, where possible, but often it could not be determined which draft was early or which later. Most of the pages bear handwritten annotations, some by Mrs. Bates, some apparently by her typist, and others by unnamed reviewers. The manuscripts and drafts have been microfilmed for preservation. Included with this series is a folder containing reviews of the book and other promotional material.

Records of the LITTLE ROCK SCHOOL INTEGRATION CRISIS contain microfilmed student files concerning the “Little Rock Nine” students. These consist of typewritten reports, apparently compiled by Mrs. Bates, of incidents, harassment, and intimidation suffered by the students. Also included are letters received by the students from supporters, copies of their replies, and other material pertaining to them or to their families. A folder of incidents, general reports, and memos contains summary reports of the events which occurred at Central, and copies of memos written by the school administration and staff. A scholarship fund was established for the benefit of the students, and papers relating to donations, expenditures, and the students' college experiences, are also included. Other student records are comprised of record cards of Central High School students, 1955-1958, which may have been the official school records. With these are typewritten cards created by Mrs. Bates and indicating which white students harassed the nine black students. All the cards are arranged alphabetically by the students' surnames, and each contains a record of misbehavior, punishments, and, occasionally, personal comments about the student. Two student directories from the high school are also included.

Also in this series are microfilmed newspaper clippings illustrating the desegregation of Central High School and its aftermath, 1956-1963. Many of these clippings came from the two Little Rock daily newspapers, Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat, with others from the Bates' paper, Arkansas State Press, and from other papers throughout the country. A folder of printed articles, pamphlets, and clippings presents retrospective views of the events of 1957. Also included are several news clippings pertaining to Daisy Bates. A few of these date from the late 1940s and early 1950s and concern her role as publisher and manager of the State Press; the 1946 contempt of court conviction of the Bates’; the 1952 “Spirit of Cotton” promotional tour, when she acted as chaperone; and her early NAACP activities. Clippings from the late 1950s and 1960s illustrate Mrs. Bates' involvement with the “Little Rock Nine” and the events surrounding desegregation, her speaking tours, awards received, publicity about the publication of her memoirs, and other material. All the clippings are arranged in chronological order by date of publication, with undated clippings filmed at the end of each section.

Finally, the realia are a rock with threatening note stating: THE NEXT WILL BE DYNAMITE K.K.K. The rock and note were wrapped in a rag which was thrown through Daisy and L.C. Bates’ window in August 1957 during the Little Rock School Integration Crisis.

The NAACP RECORDS contain a variety of material concerning both the Little Rock and Arkansas State Conference Branches, and the national board of the NAACP. The national records include administrative papers received by Mrs. Bates during her tenure on the national board, and include minutes of meetings, printed memos, and financial statements. A file of speeches delivered at national NAACP conferences is also present. Legal documents, correspondence, and other papers regarding NAACP court cases deal primarily with the attempts of the state attorney general to force the Arkansas NAACP to register with his office. Other cases involve the Bates as officers of the NAACP. Records of the Arkansas State Conference of Branches include correspondence, both typewritten and printed; conference programs, press releases, financial records, and other administrative papers. Transcripts of phone conversations between Mrs. Bates and NAACP officials in New York, and of a tape-recorded discussion (audio not available here) between NAACP officer Clarence Laws and the nine students, reveal the close contact of the two organizations, and the assistance provided by the national office in 1957 and 1958. News clippings of NAACP events and activities, 1952-1962, have also been microfilmed.

A small REFERENCE AND SUBJECT FILE contains material related to the school desegregation crisis and other topics. Miscellaneous news clippings, primarily concerning white opposition in Little Rock, copies of proposed segregation legislation, and a folder of printed items for mass distribution, comprise the collection's anti-integration records. There is also a folder regarding the Arkansas State Press, its demise, and L.C. Bates. Records of the Arkansas Council of Human Relations are included because of Mrs. Bates' work with the organization.

The AUDIO RECORDINGS in the collection contain portions of an interview with Mrs. Bates, a general discussion of the Little Rock situation in 1957 or 1958, speeches from an awards presentation, and a taped political speech by Governor Faubus. Further description of the tapes may be found in the contents list. Some of the recordings are of poor quality. A portion of the interview (Audio 814A/4) is available online.

The PHOTOGRAPHS document Mrs. Bates' activities during and after the desegregation of Central High School as well as the incident itself and the Little Rock Nine. Images of Mrs. Bates include portraits and snapshots of her alone and with prominent politicians and civil rights leaders including Orval Faubus, W. Averell Harriman, President Dwight Eisenhower, and Ralph H. Bunch, Secretary General of the United Nations. Other photographs show her at speaking engagements, presentations and events, and during a promotional event for her book. Also included are images of her husband, L.C. Bates, and construction of their home in Little Rock and its vandalism. Photographs documenting the events at Central High School include images of the Little Rock Nine, their first attempt to enter school, the protests and violence that surrounded the event, and troops sent to protect them. The collection also includes photographs made for Life magazine stories about the Little Rock Nine and the desegregation of the school. Other photographs include images related to the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), 1951-1953 and numerous identified and unidentified individuals with possible connections to the Little Rock Nine and/or Mrs. Bates including NAACP attorneys Wiley Branton and Thurgood Marshall; Effie Jones, the first African American student to enter Hall High School in Little Rock; and educator Mary Wilber Weeks-Burroughs.