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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

UALR Hosts World Premiere of ‘Daisy Bates’

UALR’s Institute on Race and Ethnicity and Department of History, with support from the Mabel and Santo Formica Endowment, will present the world premiere of “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock,” a documentary that chronicles the life of the civil rights figure.

The film, documenting Bates’s life from her 1913 birth in Hutting, Ark., to her death in Little Rock in 1999, is scheduled to air on PBS in February 2012. It will premiere at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, in the Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in UALR’s Fine Arts Building. The event is free and open to the public.

The documentary was directed by Sharon La Cruise. Bates is voiced by actress Angela Bassett and features expert commentary by John Kirk, UALR Donaghey Professor and chair of history.

Author of the books “Beyond Little Rock: The Origins and Legacies of the Central High Crisis” and “Redefining the Color Line: Black Activism in Little Rock, Arkansas, 1940-1970,” Kirk is an internationally-recognized scholar on the civil rights movement in Arkansas, prompting La Cruise to approach him about participating in the documentary.

“Daisy Bates spearheaded the civil rights movement in Little Rock and Arkansas at a crucial moment in history,” said Kirk, who interviewed Bates in 1992. “She was elected president of the NAACP Arkansas State Conference of Branches in 1952 and was at the forefront of pressing Arkansans to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation ruling.”

Bates was a mentor to the Little Rock Nine, the first African American students to integrate Central High School. “Daisy and her husband, L.C. Bates, were key actors in the 1957 school crisis and were often the focus of racially-based attacks,” said Kirk. “Daisy went on to have a career on the national civil rights stage and held several federal positions in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.” Bates was also one of only a few women to speak at the March on Washington in 1963.

Other experts to appear in the documentary include Elizabeth Jacoway, former UALR history professor, Brynda Pappas, a personal friend of Bates, and Aldon Morris, African American sociologist and civil rights historian.

Kirk sees the film as a perfect tribute to Bates’s courage and determination.

“Bates had a lifelong commitment to achieving justice and equality,” he said. “La Cruise’s documentary pays fitting tribute, unearthing new details about Daisy’s life and extensively mining media archives for stunning new footage and images of Bates never before seen by the public.”

La Cruise has also participated in film projects such as “Matters of Race,” “This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys,” and “The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.” “Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock” is La Cruise’s first documentary.

The UALR Institute on Race and Ethnicity will also be involved in the screening.

“We plan to reach out to the Arkansas community to encourage participation in this historic event,” said Adjoa Aiyetoro, director of the Institute. “We are pleased to be associated with this premiere.”

For more information about the world premiere of the documentary, contact Kirk at 501-569-3235 or at jakirk@ualr.edu or Aiyetoro at 501-569-3010 or at aaaiyetoro@ualr.edu.