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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock Details the Life of an Unsung Civil-Rights Hero

Posted on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 10:00 AM

In 1957, nine young black students showed up for their first day at Little Rock Central High School. They faced an angry white mob and the Arkansas National Guard, which had been deployed by the governor to resist federal desegregation orders. The event was caught on film and quickly became a fulcrum for the civil rights movement, largely through the efforts of one oft-overlooked organizer: Daisy Lee Gatson Bates.

As co-founder of the black Arkansas State Press and president of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP, Bates was uniquely qualified to prepare the Little Rock Nine for their first day of school, and to get the news cameras rolling. But that was just a beginning. In an attempt to bring Bates' legacy into our public conscience, Sharon La Cruise's documentary Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock recounts the harrowing events of the Little Rock crisis, as well as Bates' later work on President Lyndon Johnson's anti-poverty programs. The film screens tonight (Tuesday) at the San Francisco Public Library.


In the process, Cruise also uncovers a personality as complex as the era -- a charismatic, self-taught firebrand whose need of drink led to three early strokes and whose need of attention often led to alienation, even from those she would help. In some ways this is a tragedy that culminates in a state holiday, but we are left with an authentic heroine who has not been whitewashed.

Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock screens at 5:45 p.m. today (Tuesday, Jan. 17) at Koret Auditorium in the Main Library, 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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