An illegitimate child living in a segregated Arkansas sawmill town and self-taught after the eighth grade, Daisy Bates was hardly born to make history. Yet in 1957 she became a household name when she fought for the right of nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock. As head of the Arkansas NAACP and protector of the students, her instant fame proved fleeting, and she paid a large price for her attempts to remain relevant.
Daisy Bates’s contributions — as a newspaper publisher in Little Rock and NAACP leader — remain little recognized outside of Arkansas today. Nearly crippled by a series of strokes, she was never able to tell her own story on film. The Independent Lens documentary raises persisting questions ripe for the classroom: What motivated Daisy Bates? Was she a self-sacrificing heroine or an opportunist driven by a need for validation? Supporting a policy that put teenagers on the frontlines of the school desegregation battle, was that policy morally right? In addition to film clips, you can find a discussion guide with background on featured individuals and other relevant topics for discussion.