Daisy Bates

Daisy Bates

First Lady of Little Rock

  • BY Sharon La Cruise | IN Civil Rights
    Premiered February 2, 2012

About the Film

In 1957, Daisy Bates 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, Arkansas. Bates's public support culminated in a constitutional crisis — pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself. As head of the Arkansas NAACP, and protector of the nine students, Daisy Bates would achieve instant fame as the drama played out on national television and in newspapers around the world. But that fame would prove fleeting and for her attempts to remain relevant, she would pay a hefty price. MORE

Daisy Bates was not born to make history. The product of a segregated Arkansas sawmill town, she was black, illegitimate and self-taught after the eighth grade. Bates's early life was scarred when she discovered that the couple that was raising her was not, in fact, her parents. Her biological mother had been raped, murdered, and dumped into a local pond by white men. Fearing for his life, her father gave her away and never reclaimed her.

Throughout her life — even at the height of her acclaim — Daisy Bates would know loneliness and a feeling of being on the outside looking in. It was a feeling that drove her relentlessly — to take up with a married man as a means of escaping the circumstances of her birth, to constantly push herself and those around her, to ignore her fears and doubts, to never let friends or enemies see her in pain, and to always present an air of composure, sophistication, and glamour even when her life was falling apart.

Today, Daisy Bates's contributions — first as a newspaper publisher in Little Rock and then as head of the Arkansas NAACP — remain little recognized outside of Arkansas. In the 1980s, when Henry Hampton was filming his landmark series, Eyes on the Prize, Daisy Bates had been silenced and nearly crippled by a series of strokes. She was never able to tell her own story on film.

So questions persist: What motivated Daisy Bates? Was she a self-sacrificing heroine or an opportunist driven by a need for validation? As Arkansas state president of the NAACP, Daisy supported a policy that put teenagers on the frontlines of the school desegregation battle — but was that policy morally right? What price did the Little Rock Nine pay for that decision? What does her story tell us about the place of feminism in the civil rights movement? After all she did, why was Daisy never fully embraced, even within the Little Rock community?

The Filmmaker

Sharon La Cruise has worked for Blackside Inc., Firelight Media, Roja Productions, The Faith Project, The Coca-Cola Company, the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and the Cable News Network (CNN). She has worked on: Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun, Shut up & Sing; Going Up River: The Long War of John Kerry; Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise; Citizen King; Matters of Race; This Far By Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys; The Life of Zora Neale Hurston; and CNN’s Through the Lens, The Road to the White House, and The Planetary Police. She currently works as an associate for the Ford Foundation in its JustFilms unit. She is a member of the International Documentary Association. She holds an M.A. in television journalism from New York University, and a B.A. in history from Adelphi University. LESS

Film Credits

Voice of Daisy Bates
Angela Bassett

Sandra Christie

Writer, Producer and Director
Sharon La Cruise

W. Noland Walker

Original Score by
Gil Talmi

Directors of Photography
Michael Chin
Robert Shepard
Jonathan Weaver

Graphics Designer
Lucjan Gorczynski

Field Producer
Carol Bash

Coordinating Producer
Sheila Maniar

Additional Editing
Emir Lewis
Aljernon Tunsil

Additional Shooting
Stewart Holmes

Sound Technicians
Brian Albritton
Michael Boyle
James Groves
Francisco LaTorre
David Obermeyer
Jim Rebracca

Assistant Editor
Jeremiah Glazer
Robert Hatch-Miller

Tamisha Cheatham
Jennifer Koenig

Production Assistants
Chivonne Henriques
Malika Henriques
Tavia James
ManSee Kong
Roxanne Yamashiro

Field Production Assistants
Levi Agee
Robert Booth
Kyle Denton
Derrick Garrett
Ricky Grimes, Jr.
Hugh Rich
Eddie Rodriguez
Cane West

Post Production Supervisor
Steven Bennett

On-line Facility

On-line Editor
Rick Broat

Sound Editor
Barbara Parks

Re-Recording Mixer
Peter Levin

Audio Post Production
Splash Studios, Inc.

Sound Recording
Smart Post Sound

Voice Coach
Valerie Geller

Music Performers
The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra SIF 309

Music Editor
Kwan Fai Lam

Nastajae Alderson
Destiny Gatson
Melvin Hayes
Summer Modica
Shawn Pryor
Will Tolbert
Raymond Waters


Dave Calhoun

Production Assistant
Jamie Carden

Set Decorator
Tammy Glass

Camera Assistant
Amy Sandefur

Trent Thomason

Creative Advisor
June Cross

Script Advisors
Lisa Payton
Howard Weinberg

Accounting Services Provided by
Falconer, Inc.
K.A. Trotter, Inc.

Legal Advice Provided by
Law Office of Fernando Ramirez

Archival Photos and Images Courtesy of
101st Airborne Museum
Afro-American Archives
AP Images
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas History Commission
Arkansas State Press/Writing Our World Publishing
Linda Austin
Bob Adelman/CORBIS
Bob Klein Archives
Brian Lanker Archives
Clifton Broughton
Butler Center for Arkansas Studies
California African-American Museum
Central High School, NHS
Chicago Defender
Mike Ciemny
The Commercial Appeal
Daisy Bates Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society Archives
Ernest Withers Gallery & Archives
Genevieve Naylor/CORBIS
Gertrude Samuels Collection
Getty Images
Damon Hart-Davis
Hearst Communications, Inc. Hearst Newspaper Division
The Image Works
Johnson Publishing Company
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Los Angeles Times
Magnum Photos
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center
New York Amsterdam News
Schomburg Center, New York Public Library
Christine Shea
Mike Shea Estate
Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries
The Tennessean
University of Arkansas Press
University of Maryland, Mildred Grossman Archives
Ann Vachon
Will Counts Collection: Indiana University Archives
Wisconsin Historical Society

Archival Footage Courtesy of
ABC News VideoSource
Arkansas Educational Television Network
CBC TV Archive Sales
Getty Images
Historic Films
ITN Source/FOX
Leonard Productions
Library of Congress, Moving Picture Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division
National Archives and Records Administration
NBC Universal Archives
Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid
Oddball Film+Video
Rockefeller Archives Center
Sherman Grinberg Film Library
Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries
Thought Equity Motion/CBS News
UCLA Film & Television Archives

Recorded Music

“Basie Boogie”
Performed by Count Basie & Orchestra
M.K. Ebens/W. Basie
SONY BMG Music Entertainment Group

“Lord Don’t Move That Mountain”
Performed by Etta James
Manna Music Inc.

“The Twist”
Performedw by Chubby Checker
Fort Knox Music, Inc.
Trio Music Group

“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel Like To Be Free”
Performed by Nina Simone
Duane Music, Inc.

Special Thanks
Orlando Bagwell
Julian Bond
The Gatson Family
Mable Haddock
The La Cruise Family
The Manning Family
Greg Pak
Amilca Palmer
Kay Shaw
Jean Tsien

Fiscal Sponsor
Women Make Movies, Inc.

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Executive Producer for NBPC
Jacquie Jones

Funding provided by
Southern Humanities Media Fund
Arkansas Humanities Council
New York State Council on the Arts
National Endowment for the Humanities
West Fraser Limited and others

A complete list is available from PBS.

Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock is a co-production of
Sakkara Films and the Independent Television Service (ITVS),
in association with the National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC),
with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock is produced by
Sakkara Films who is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 Sakkara Films, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Little Rock Nine faced unimaginable verbal abuse and threats to their very lives. Was it ethical for Bates’s NAACP to put children on the front lines of the desegregation battle — even if they volunteered to be there or chose to be there?
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The Little Rock Nine faced unimaginable verbal abuse and threats to their very lives. Was it ethical for Bates’s NAACP to put children on the front lines of the desegregation battle — even if they volunteered to be there or chose to be there?