In the quaint South Dallas neighborhood along Warren Avenue, you will find several churches, a neighborhood convenience store, a thrift store and a handful of houses – one of which belonged to civil rights activist Juanita J. Craft. But in the 1950s when Craft moved into the modest, one-story home, Dallas was segregated and the air was thick with racial tension.
Craft was born in Round Rock, Texas, in 1902, to school teachers. She attended Prairie View A&M University for sewing and millinery and received her teaching certificate from Samuel Houston College. On March 22, 1925, Craft moved to Dallas and began working at the Adolphus Hotel as a bell woman making $2.50 per week. A decade later, she joined the NAACP and found her life's work pursuing equality.
In the years that followed, Craft would establish more than 180 rural NAACP chapters; become the first black woman in Dallas county to vote in a public election; and serve as the Dallas NAACP membership chairwoman, youth organizer, and the Texas NAACP field organizer.
Both Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. visited her home to discuss the future of the Civil Rights Movement. Craft played a crucial role in integrating Dallas theaters, lunch counters, public transportation, schools, as well as the State Fair of Texas, by challenging Jim Crow laws through nonviolent demonstrations and legal suits.
Craft received many accolades for her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and efforts toward equality, including Dallas' highest civic honor, the Linz Award, in 1969. She later served two terms on the Dallas City Council from 1975 to 1979.
She lived in the South Dallas neighborhood until she died on August 6, 1985. Now, Craft's home is a Dallas landmark – one of only a few house museums in the nation honoring major female figures in the Civil Rights Movement. The preservation of Craft's home, as well as the recreation center and park named in her honor, serve as reminders of her impact on the Dallas community.
Today, visitors can explore Craft's home to see her keepsakes displayed, including photos, plaques, placards and knickknacks. Plan to visit this landmark to experience African American culture in Dallas or cross it off as a stop on your self-guided Civil Rights Tour. Just minutes away from Fair Park, the Juanita J. Craft Civil Right House is a great place to visit to discover the history of African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement in Dallas.
Stroll the streets of the Wheatley Place Historic District and climb the wooden steps of 2816 Warren Avenue to learn more about Juanita J. Craft's life and legacy as a public servant.