Dallas Civil Rights History Symposium exploring the local legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Juanita J. Craft to be held Saturday
Dallas – On Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024—at the start of the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday weekend—a civil rights history symposium will be held at Fair Park and in the South Dallas community, exploring the local legacies of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as Dallas’ own civil rights legend, Juanita J. Craft.
The symposium—which will start at 10:00 a.m. and be based out of the African American Museum of Dallas at Fair Park—will feature speakers panels about Dr. King’s visits to Dallas and contemporary youth activism in Dallas, as well as tours of the newly-reopened Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and Museum in Queen City, and the Music Hall at Fair Park, where Dr. King spoke in 1963.
This event is being organized by a consortium of local organizations, including Preservation Dallas; Remembering Black Dallas; the African American Museum of Dallas; Broadway Dallas; McCoy Collaborative, a TreanorHL Company; BH365; Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum; and the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, which operates the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and Museum. Free shuttle van transportation linking the Fair Park sites and the Juanita Craft House is being provided by Fair Park First.
The symposium is presented with generous support from Texas Capital.
“Texas Capital is proud to join the many partners who are a part of this event as we recognize the civil rights leaders for their historical work toward building a more equitable community,” said Effie Dennison, Head of Community Development and Corporate Social Responsibility at Texas Capital. “We are proud to honor their legacy of service and continue to support their work.”
The symposium’s physical core will be at the western end of Fair Park, an area rich with Black history, including the African American Museum—which stands adjacent to the site of the long-demolished Hall of Negro Life from the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition—as well as the historic Grand Avenue Gate, where Mrs. Craft and the “Craft Kids” of the NAACP Youth Council led picket lines encouraging Black fairgoers to boycott the segregated State Fair, and the Music Hall at Fair Park, where Dr. King braved bomb threats to address a crowd of 2,500 people in 1963.
The African American Museum of Dallas will be the base of operations for the symposium, and is the site of event registration; lunch; speakers panels; and shuttle van pick-up to the Juanita Craft House. Symposium attendees are encouraged to view the current exhibitions at the African American Museum during their down-time over the course of the day.
“The African American Museum of Dallas is excited about the upcoming event related to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Juanita Craft’s role in the Civil Rights Movement in the City of Dallas,” said Robert Edison, Curator of Education at the African American Museum of Dallas. “We recognize that each generation must contribute to the freedom struggle and having youth participating in this event is very significant. They must come away with the understanding that ‘freedom is not free.’”
Because of capacity constraints for the overall event, each of the two speakers panels will run twice: first between 10 a.m. and noon and at 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. session. All symposium attendees will have the opportunity to view both panels—as part of their timed ticket—when not taking tours.
The first panel, entitled “MLK in Dallas: Dr. King’s Visits, and the Community Response,” will look at Dr. King’s specific visits to Dallas; the context of his trips here; why he wasn’t in Dallas more often; and his legacy in the city. This panel will feature long-time DISD educator Dr. Marilyn Calhoun; doctoral candidate Ed Gray, leader of the Dallas County Justice Initiative; lifelong community activist and former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) member Jackie McMillan Hill; civil rights movement veteran and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) member Rev. Peter Johnson, who was dispatched to Dallas to raise money for the grieving King family in 1969; and Dr. Michael Phillips, author of White Metropolis. It will be moderated by nationally acclaimed Dallas-based artist Vicki Meek. This panel is being coordinated by the African American Museum, Preservation Dallas, and Remembering Black Dallas.
The second panel, “It Starts With Me: Youth Activism in 21st-Century Dallas,” will feature youth leaders from the Dallas NAACP Juanita J. Craft Youth Council and from BH365, who will speak about their current activism, and the legacy of Dr. King and Mrs. Craft among Dallas youth. This panel is being coordinated by the Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House and Museum with assistance from BH365.
As a key component to their Racial Equity journey, Broadway Dallas has dedicated a prominent space in the Music Hall at Fair Park lobby for an exhibit. Entitled “SOUTH DALLAS STORIES: UPROOTED,” the exhibit—which will be featured in the Music Hall tour—shares artistic narratives from Fair Park’s South Dallas neighbors, who have been impacted by inequities of the past. “Broadway Dallas so looks forward to highlighting the historic building where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in 1963,” said Allison Bret, Director of Education and Community Partnerships at Broadway Dallas. “We strive daily to keep his legacy alive through the spirit of Broadway at the Music Hall at Fair Park.”
In addition to its role coordinating the MLK in Dallas panel, Remembering Black Dallas will also be stationing volunteer docents at Fair Park’s former Grand Avenue Gate, located beyond the parking lots inside today’s Gate #5, to discuss Mrs. Craft’s 1955 protests there, and the 12-year campaign that followed to desegregate the State Fair of Texas. “
The collaborations of these organizations provide an exploration into Dallas’ historical roots and the involvement of two great African American civic leaders: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., nationally; and Mrs. Juanita Craft, locally,” said Dr. Deborah Hopes, President of Remembering Black Dallas, Inc. “The experiences infused into this day, including noted panelists and various historical tours, further establish the need to unearth more of the hidden truths surrounding our African American communities and our nation.”
Just over a mile from Fair Park, the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and Museum in the Queen City neighborhood—which reopened in May of 2023 after extensive renovations—will be holding small group tours every 20 minutes throughout the day. In addition to being Mrs. Craft’s home, the Craft House served as the base of operations for the “Craft Kids,” the NAACP Youth Councils that she led, and which now bear her name.
“The Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum are enthusiastic to be a collaborating partner in this special event,” said Candace Thompson, Board Chair of The Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum. “Mrs. Craft made a life of serving her community, pouring wisdom into youth, and inspiring generations of future leaders locally and nationally. She persisted and believed she could make a difference. Our hopes are that all who attend the program and visit her home are activated to be catalysts for positive change leaving a legacy that uplifts our communities.”
Free shuttle van service connecting Fair Park and the Juanita Craft House will be provided by Fair Park First. Docent-led tours of the Craft House—led by The Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, along with City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture staff—will focus on Mrs. Craft’s life and activism. Architects from McCoy Collaborative, a TreanorHL Company will also be on-site to talk about the work they did preserving the house.
“We are proud to celebrate the significance of our civil rights leaders such as Dr. King and Mrs. Juanita J. Craft.” said Director of the Office of Arts and Culture, Martine Elyse Philippe. “We welcome visitors to the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House to learn about the great history of her activism. We are honored to work alongside community partners who are taking on the necessary work of acknowledging the contributions of our civil rights leaders in order to build a future rooted in justice.”
Preservation Dallas is playing a coordinating role for the consortium of groups that are organizing the symposium, as part of its renewed commitment to focus on preservation concerns in diverse communities across the city.
“By going from Mrs. Craft’s home in Queen City where she mentored countless Dallas youth, to the Fair Park gate where she led the 1955 protests that would ultimately desegregate the State Fair of Texas, to the nearby Music Hall where Dr. King spoke—despite bomb threats—to thousands of Dallasites in 1963, this event will allow participants to walk in the footsteps of our Civil Rights heroes,” said Victoria Clow, President of Preservation Dallas. “It is a testament to the power of preservation to bring our history alive.”
Ticket cost to attend the symposium is pay-what-you-wish for adults, with a minimum donation of $1, and a suggested donation of $10.
Tickets for youth and students are available free of charge. Registration will open at 9:30am. Lunch will be provided to all symposium attendees between Noon and 1 p.m., courtesy of presenting sponsors Texas Capital. All tickets are timed, with a designated panel time, and shuttle time to depart for the Juanita Craft House. Attendees are asked to be outside the African American Museum, ready to board their shuttle, at the time printed on their ticket. Those interested in attending are asked to register in advance via EventBrite at the following link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/784643488797.
Parking is available at Fair Park, adjacent to the African American Museum and the Music Hall. The parking lot is accessible via Fair Park’s Gate #5, the Grand Avenue Gate, located at the intersection of Robert B. Cullum Blvd and Al Lipscomb Way.
About the Office of Arts and Culture
The Office of Arts and Culture (OAC) is a City of Dallas department that works to enhance the vitality of the city and the quality of life for all Dallas residents by creating an equitable environment wherein artists as well as arts and cultural organizations thrive; people of all ages enjoy opportunities for creative expression; and all celebrate our multicultural heritage. OAC does this by supporting artists, arts organizations and Dallas residents through grants, partnerships and other critical resources. OAC is also the custodian of 19 city-owned cultural facilities, where a wide variety of arts and cultural programs are offered for citizens and visitors. These facilities consist of many of our community’s most important cultural venues, and when combined, represent more than 1.5 million square feet of space dedicated to arts and cultural functions in our community. OAC also oversees a 300 plus-work citywide public art collection. dallasculture.org.
About Texas Capital
Texas Capital Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ®: TCBI), a member of the Russell 2000® Index and the S&P MidCap 400®, is the parent company of Texas Capital Bank d/b/a Texas Capital, is a full-service financial services firm that delivers customized solutions to businesses, entrepreneurs, and individual customers. Founded in 1998, the institution is headquartered in Dallas with offices in Austin, Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth and has built a network of clients across the country. With the ability to service clients through their entire lifecycles, Texas Capital has established commercial banking, consumer banking, investment banking and wealth management capabilities. All services are subject to applicable laws, regulations, and service terms. Member FDIC. For more information, please visit www.texascapital.com.