WEDU Presents a Free Community Cinema Screening at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee Selby Auditorium

As a black woman who was a feminist before the term was invented, Daisy Bates refused to accept her assigned place in society. Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock tells the story of her life and public support of nine black students who registered to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, which culminated in a constitutional crisis – pitting a president against a governor and a community against itself. Unconventional, revolutionary, and egotistical, Daisy Bates reaped the rewards of instant fame, but paid dearly for it.

As part of its Community Cinema series, WEDU will host a free screening of Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock in partnership with USF Sarasota-Manatee at the Selby Auditorium, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, on Tuesday, January 31st starting at 2:00pm. Immediately following the film, a panel discussion will be held with special guests Jo-Ann Martin Hughes and Henry Lawrence.

Panelist Jo-Ann Martin Hughes had many positive experiences in her college years at Florida Memorial College. Her most profound experience was personally meeting the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was Dr. King’s words that motivated her to become heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in St. Augustine in 1963. As a result of her involvement, she was arrested and spent 60 days jailed in St. John’s County Jail. Ms. Martin weathered the storm and graduated from Florida Memorial College with a degree in Elementary Education.

Panelist Henry Lawrence, member of the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, was an All-American at Lincoln High School in Palmetto. After transferring to Manatee High School in 1969, under the first year of integration, he rarely played for a coaching staff that didn’t know how to deal with a difficult situation. Upon being drafted by the Raiders, Lawrence also saw little field time and smaller paychecks being told that players from small black schools didn’t get as much money as other players.

The panel discussion will be moderated by Bonnie Greenball Silvestri, J.D., is the Senior Fellow for Arts, Culture, and Civic Engagement and she is an instructor in the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee.  Ms. Greenball Silvestri is responsible for developing and implementing programs in the areas of arts and culture, social justice, and civic engagement. She received her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in English with a minor in Art History from Vanderbilt University and her Juris Doctor from The Michael E. Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University.

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?

This Community Cinema screening event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations can be made online at or by calling 813.739.2941.

WEDU’s Community Cinema screening of Daisy Bates: First Lady of Little Rock is proudly supported by ZVRS, USF Sarasota-Manatee and ITVS.