Oxford AASC: Scott, Daisy Levester

Scott, Daisy Levester

(24 Oct. 1897–20 Aug. 1946),

cartoonist, was born in Blevins, Arkansas, the first daughter of Julia Miller, a homemaker, and Lemuel Dixon, a preacher. A few years later, her parents separated and Julia Miller moved to St. Louis. After living for a short time with her maternal grandmother, Daisy was sent to live with her grandmother's sister-in-law, Josephine Hurst and her husband, Peter, in Little Rock, Arkansas. When she was nineteen years old, Daisy met Jack Scott, a former middleweight boxer, and they were married on 2 May 1917. The couple moved from Little Rock to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they lived in Greenwood, the city's African American section. The 1920 census listed Daisy as a cartoonist and her husband as a janitor. They had twelve children: Judith, Juanita, Julius, Eloise, Panchita, Sidney, Pauline, Guy, Altamese, Jonetta, Benjamin, and Toussaint.

Scott worked as a cartoonist for the Tulsa Star, edited by A. J. Smitherman. Her cartoons reflected the key political themes of African American intellectuals in the Progressive era: the threat of lynching, riots, and the burdens that race hatred placed on the African American community (such as the costs of racial violence and segregation)—particularly African American women—and African Americans’ patriotism. For instance, one Scott cartoon depicted an African American man carrying a hammer, headed to work, while radicals at the side plotted anarchy. Scott was an important part of a rich intellectual community in Tulsa prior to the infamous 1921 Tulsa riot. Other members of that community included Mary Jones Parrish, J. B. Stradford, B. C. Franklin, and activists such as O. B. Mann, who had been influenced by W. E. B. Du Bois's The Crisis and Smitherman's Tulsa Star. On the evening of 31 May 1921 Mann led a band of African American World War I veterans—including Jack Scott—to the Tulsa courthouse to protect Dick Rowland from a threatened lynching. It was said of Mann that after the riot, he “came back from the war with France with exaggerated notions about equality and thinking he can whip the world” (Brophy, 33). Scott's cartoons illustrated Mann's attitude: a pride in the community and a desire to protect against violence.

Scott survived the Tulsa riot, although the 1930 U.S. Census did not list an occupation for her. Like many other people in Greenwood, the riot dramatically altered Scott's life. She and her husband even lived in a tent while they built a new house in Greenwood. Moreover, the riot destroyed the Tulsa Star, so Scott no longer had a publication outlet for her work. So far as we can tell, she did not work as a cartoonist after the riot. Jack had a boxing ring in their backyard, where he taught boxing. In the depths of the Great Depression, the couple won a case in the Oklahoma Supreme Court against a white person, to whom they allegedly owed a debt: Scott v. Marshall (1933). It is a reminder that in rare instances African Americans could get a modicum of justice in the Oklahoma courts. Scott lived in Tulsa until her death in 1946 of a cerebral hemorrhage; funeral services took place on 20 August 1946 at St. Monica's Catholic Church in Tulsa.


    Further Reading

    • Brophy, Alfred L. Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921 (2002)
    • Ellsworth, Scott. Death in a Promised Land: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (1982)
    • Final Report of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (2001).
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