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Daisy Gatson Bates Day in the United States

Daisy Gatson Bates Day honors the life of Daisy Gatson Bates, a civil rights activist who played a key role in an integration crisis at Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Daisy Gatson Bates Day is a state holiday in Arkansas, the United States, on the third Monday of February, together with Washington’s Birthday.

Is Daisy Gatson Bates Day a Public Holiday?

Daisy Gatson Bates Day is a public holiday in Arkansas, where it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Daisy Gatson Bates played an important role promoting civil rights, fairness and justice in American society, a concept depicted in the photo above.
Daisy Gatson Bates played an important role promoting civil rights, fairness and justice in American society, a concept depicted in the photo above.
©iStockphoto.com/Stefan Klein

What Do People Do?

Many people in the United States, including in Little Rock, Arkansas, take the time to remember the life and achievements of Daisy Gatson Bates on the third Monday of February. Educational institutions may incorporate classroom activities for students to learn about the importance of civil rights and leaders such as Bates around this time of the year. Local events may also take place to honor of Bates and her achievements on the day.

Public Life

Daisy Gatson Bates Day coincides with Washington’s Birthday and is a public holiday in Arkansas. Schools, government offices and many businesses are closed on this day.

Background

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates was born in Huttig, Arkansas, in 1913 or 1914. She was a foster child who attended the city’s segregated public schools. She married LC Bates in 1942 and lived in Little Rock. Her husband started a newspaper, known as the Arkansas State Press, which stressed the need to improve conditions for African Americans. This resulted in many businesses withdrawing their advertisements.

She and her husband were actively involved in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Bates’ popularity as a civil rights advocate heightened in 1956 during the pre-trial proceedings of the federal court case, Aaron v Cooper, which set the stage for Little Rock Central High School’s desegregation in 1957.

Bates led a protest against the Little Rock schools system’s slow plan for racial integration within schools. She personally guided and advised African American students enroll into Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, with National Guard units and about 1000 paratroopers to help enforce integration. She remained active in the civil rights programs throughout her life. Bates died of a heart attack at the Baptist Medical Center in Little Rock on November 4, 1999.

A state holiday was named in her honor on February 19, 2001. The third Monday in February of every year (the same day as President's Day, officially known as Washington’s Birthday) will now also be Daisy Gatson Bates day in Arkansas.

Symbols

Many tributes were made in memory of Daisy Gatson Bates. For example, a street running parallel to Little Rock Central High School was renamed in her honor. Daisy Bates Elementary School in Little Rock is also named after her. Daisy Bates’ memoir, The Long Shadow of Little Rock, won a 1988 National Book Award in the United States.

Daisy Gatson Bates Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010MonFeb 15Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2011MonFeb 21Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2012MonFeb 20Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2013MonFeb 18Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2014MonFeb 17Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2015MonFeb 16Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2016MonFeb 15Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2017MonFeb 20Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2018MonFeb 19Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2019MonFeb 18Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas
2020MonFeb 17Daisy Gatson Bates DayState holidayArkansas

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