President's Day Overshadows Daisy Gatson Bates Day in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Many got a day off work and school Monday in honor of President's Day.

A lot of people in Little Rock also drove past Central High School, its National Historic Site Visitor Center and Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive without realizing the third Monday in February honors her just as much as our nation's 45 presidents.  

"I will be honest with you, until I came to work this morning, I didn't even know it was Daisy Bates Day," said Wesley Hillman, a volunteer at the visitor center. "President's Day is really a lot more well known." 

Hillman believes that's because not enough people talk about Daisy Gatson Bates Day, even though she deserves just as much recognition. 

"She had a major impact not just on Arkansas history but on American history and the civil rights movement," he said. 

Bates pushed to make "We the People" include everyone, most notably by guiding the Little Rock Nine when they tried to enroll at Central in 1957. 

"They wanted to learn, they wanted a good education and they were willing to do anything," Hillman said. 

Bates created a lasting legacy as a civil rights activist, even receiving recognition from the men she shares her holiday with, U.S. presidents.

"She was a very strong woman," Hillman said. "And she did not let all of the problems that her and the Little Rock Nine dealt with get in her way."

"All of these years later, that's something we can all learn from right?," we asked. 

"Most definitely," he responded.

In 2017, Bates's legacy lives on 17 years after her death, inspiring other minorities, like Hillman who has a disability, to fight for equality. 

"I am thankful for what she did," he said. "It applies to all of us. Be treated just like everybody else." 

For that reason, Hillman vows to never forget Daisy Gatson Bates Day again.

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