Threads Through Time-Patricia A. Montgomery

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The Mentor, 2015
From the Civil Rights Swing Coats Series
Upholstery, silk organza and cotton fabrics, textile thread painting, digital images, pastel drawing, and buttons
On loan from the artist

Text on coat:

The Bates’ home was the safe haven to the “Little Rock Nine.” They met there every morning and weretransported to Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, under the protection of the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division. After school, Daisy guided and advised the nine students in nonviolent responses to physical and verbal abuse. No matter how many bricks, rocks and bullets assaulted her living room window, Daisy would not have the window completely boarded up.

Daisy Bates was a Civil Rights activist in Arkansas. With her husband Lucius Bates, she published a weekly statewide newspaper, Arkansas State Press. The newspaper focused on the Civil Rights Movement and the achievements of African Americans in Arkansas. In 1941, Bates joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and, at the age of 38, became the President of the Arkansas Chapter in 1952.

With the Supreme Court ruling of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Bates used her position and voice to advocate for the desegregation of schools in Little Rock. She helped select the first African American students to be enrolled in Little Rock Central High School, better known as “The Little Rock Nine”. Bates became the group’s organizer and mentor, and her house became the official meeting place for the students and others involved in the school crisis. As a result of her involvement, she became a target for the KKK and other hate groups, forcing the Bates to close their newspaper during this dangerous time. In 2002, the Bates’ house was declared a National Historic Landmark for its importance during school desegregation.

After the school crisis, Bates moved to Washington, D.C where she worked for President Johnson on anti-poverty programs, and for the Democratic National Committee. Among her many honors, she was awarded the Springarm Medal by the NAACP in 1958, and the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1999. An elementary school in Little Rock is named for her, and Arkansas declared the third Monday in February as “Daisy Gaston Bates Day”. She died in Little Rock in 1999.

She was the Youngest to Walk the Halls, 2014
From the Civil Rights Swing Coats Series
Wool, cotton, and batik fabric, textile thread painting, digital images, buttons
On loan from the artist

Text on coat:

In 1957, I was the youngest of nine Negro students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. We were known as the “Little Rock Nine.” I endured being kicked, pushed, spit upon and verbally abused everyday. I was escorted by armed guards to classes. I never fought back. My name is Carlotta Walls and I graduated from Little Rock Central High in 1960. The right to a good education was decided by Brown vs the Board of Education 

Carlotta Walls was one of nine African-American students who were chosen as the first to desegregate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Walls, along with Melba Pattillo, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts, and Jefferson Thomas became known as the “Little Rock Nine”. At 14 years of age, Walls was the youngest of the Nine. On February 9, 1960, the Walls home in Little Rock was bombed. Luckily her family was unharmed. It was the first instance of a bombing directed towards one of the students. Despite the violence and torment directed at her and the others, she remained steadfast and graduated in 1960. She went on to attend Michigan State University and Colorado State College. She worked as a real estate broker for over 30 years in Colorado, and has remained active in various organizations such as The Urban League, Colorado AIDS Project, the NAACP, and the Little Rock Nine Foundation. Some of Walls accomplishments include induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2004, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2015. The Little Rock Nine were awarded the Springarm Medal from the NAACP in 1958, and the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1999.

For more on the Civil Rights Swing Coats Series, see:
Article_Quilt Inc 2017
Article from Spencer Museum.Lawrence KS_2017

 

 

The Little Rock Nine

In 1955, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that segregated schools were unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education trial. Following the decision, Virgil Blossom, the Superintendent of Schools for Little Rock, created a plan for the gradual integration of the schools. The plan was approved unanimously by the school board in 1955, with implementation starting in 1957 at Little Rock Central High School

The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), led by Daisy Bates, selected the first nine students who would attend Central High School. Those students-Melba Pattillo, Minnijean Brown, Carlotta Walls, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts, and Jefferson Thomas-became known as the “Little Rock Nine”

On September 4, 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, called in the Arkansas National Guard to keep the peace at Little Rock Central High School, while an angry mob of nearly 400 people gathered to protest the students. The soldiers were ordered by Faubus to prevent the nine African-American students from entering and attending classes. Two weeks later, on September 23rd, the nine tried again with help from the Little Rock police. This time they faced a mob of about 1000 people as they tried to enter through a side door. For their safety, the students were removed from the school. Finally, at the behest of Little Rock Mayor Woodrow Wilson Mann, President Eisenhower intervened and issued Executive Order 10730, transferring the control of the Arkansas National Guard to the federal government.  Under Eisenhower’s directive, the Guard along with the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army would now protect the students as they entered the school to finally attend classes on September 24th.

Faubus continued his fight against desegregation. In Cooper v. Aaron, Faubus argued for a delay due to public unrest, pushing back desegregation until 1961. When the Federal Courts denied him, Faubus signed several state bills closing all schools in Arkansas. Known as “The Lost Year”, the school closing forced several of the Nine to finish high school out of state. Only Carlotta Walls, Jefferson Thomas, Ernest Green, and Thelma Mothershed (via correspondence classes) graduated from Central High School.

The bravery and resolve of the Little Rock Nine led the way for continued desegregation in Arkansas and the South. They were awarded the Springarm Medal from the NAACP in 1958, and the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton in 1999. The Little Rock Nine Foundation was created in February of 1999 to provide scholarships for university students.

About Patricia A. Montgomery

Patricia A. Montgomery is a textile and installation artist, specializing in quilting. She was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, and currently resides in Oakland, California. She received a BFA from Holy Names University in 1983, and an MFA from John F. Kennedy University in 2000. She began as an abstract painter, influenced by the works of Kandinsky, Gauguin and Pollock. She traded paint for thread and began making story quilts, focusing on African American history and made with bold, bright West African fabrics and Batiks. Recently, Montgomery created the series “Civil Right Swing Coats”. Each quilted coat represents a woman who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, and tells her story. This exhibition showcases two of those coats representing Daisy Bates (The Mentor) and Carlotta Walls (She was the Youngest to Walk the Halls).