Born in 1902, Juanita Craft was an American civil rights activist, politician, and icon, best known for her tireless efforts advocating for racial justice and equality. Not only did Craft demand rights for Black citizens, but for all minorities – the poor, the sick, the young, and the elderly. Craft’s work was instrumental to the civil rights movement, particularly in Dallas. For the 60 years Craft lived in Dallas, she left her mark on the city through her determination, generosity, and love for all mankind.
Craft is largely responsible for the successful integration of the State Fair of Texas and the Dallas Independent School District, in addition to many Dallas universities, theaters, restaurants, and lunch counters. South Dallas was home to both Craft herself and the State Fair of Texas – that being said, Craft’s campaign to integrate the Fair was an essential part of her work. Beginning in 1955, Craft organized peaceful protests with her Youth Council and others every year until the Fair was fully desegregated in 1967. Thanks to the work of Craft and many others, the State Fair of Texas is a place where people from all walks of life come together year after year to make memories and celebrate all things Texan.
Craft went on to cultivate strong relationships with State Fair officials, and her memorial service was held at the Hall of State in Fair Park in 1985. Craft’s home in South Dallas is now one of only three house museums in the nation honoring a major female figure from the civil rights movement, located at 2618 Warren Avenue. Craft lived in this home for 50 years. President Lyndon B. Johnson, President Jimmy Carter, musician Duke Ellington, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Jr. visited here to discuss the future of the civil rights movement.
In 2018, State Fair of Texas officials met with the Friends of the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House to discuss their noble goal of restoring the home to historic standards. The scope of the project is projected to take more than three years and will require a significant amount of funds to complete. The State Fair jumped at the opportunity to partner with our neighbors at the Juanita Craft House and kick off this project with a $10,000 seed donation to conduct a Historic Structures Report, assessing all the restoration needs.
Repairs began in 2019, overseen by the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs which owns the home, and this initiative continued to garner support from the Dallas community. Through several more conversations, the State Fair of Texas introduced the Junior League of Dallas to the project. From there, the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs conveyed to the Junior League of Dallas the full scope of the project and its potential impact. To everyone’s delight, the Junior League chose the restoration of the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum as its Centennial Anniversary project.
On top of the Junior League’s significant fundraising efforts and the $500,000 grant the City of Dallas received from the United States Department of the Interior, the State Fair of Texas has pledged an additional $50,000 donation to support the completion of this project. With these contributions, along with personal donations from State Fair of Texas board members, among others, we hope to see the House & Museum join the Civil Rights Trail in the coming future, shining a spotlight on both civil rights history in Dallas and its continued efforts today.
In 2018, the State Fair of Texas also established the annual Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards to honor and commemorate her legacy, while promoting the restoration of the House. Each year, these awards celebrate individuals following in her footsteps, advocating for civil rights and positive change in the community. Nominations for the Fourth Annual Juanita Craft Humanitarian Awards are now open. Whether they be organizations or individuals, we welcome you to nominate any civil rights movers and shakers in the Dallas community – for more information please visit BigTex.com/JuanitaCraft.
To learn more about the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum or to donate to the restoration of her home, please visit JuanitaCraftHouse.org