This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 11, 2012 - If you have yet to go to the Missouri History Museum for their monthly Community Cinema night, it should be your New Year's resolution. "Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock" will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 12, followed by roundtable discussions with some of the first students to integrate St. Louis Public Schools. The film is part of the Community Cinema Series, a partnership among Nine Network, Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Missouri History Museum.
The film is part of the Community Cinema Series, a partnership among Nine Network, Independent Television Service (ITVS) and Missouri History Museum.
Thursday's film tells the story of a fearless civil rights activist named Daisy Bates. Bates operated an African-American newspaper, which became an important component to the civil rights movement. She also became president of the Arkansas' NAACP. In 1957, Bates stepped into the limelight as she fought publicly for the right of nine black students to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. The event became a constitutional crisis that had the entire world watching the president of the United States go up against the governor of Arkansas.
Filmmaker, Sharon La Cruise took an in depth look at Bates and not only captured her beautiful, glamorous, articulate personality but explored her troubled life. In Bates' early years, she discovered that the couple raising her was not her biological parents. Her birth mother had been raped, murdered and dumped into a local pond by white men. Her father gave Daisy away and never came back into her life. However, throughout the town, many people revered her. The movie shows how Bates turned a childhood tragedy into a pursuit of justice. Bates' accomplishments made history and helped pave the way for others. She was known as a feminist before the term was coined.
After the 60-minute film, small discussion groups will be led by local educators and former students who were fighting the same fight in St. Louis around the time Daisy Bates was making headlines in Arkansas. Included in this section of the evening will be Leonard Bishop who helped integrate Central High School in St. Louis in 1955. Today, Bishop is 71 and remembers having to change from Vashon High School, which was an all black high school, and being told he had to go to Central. "I didn't have a choice," said Bishop but recalls Central was a lot closer to his home.
Keep the History Museum in mind next month and mark your calendar for 7 p.m. Feb. 2 for the screening of "More Than a Month," the next film in the community cinema series.
Rosa Dudman Mayer is a freelance writer.