By Raven Jordan
The Juanita J. Craft House, a South Dallas historical landmark, was reopened as a Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, May 20.
Juanita J. Craft was an activist, former Democratic Precinct Chair, NAACP leader and former Dallas City Council member. Her work helped advance desegregation and racial equality in Dallas.
Over time, her house became a gathering spot for Black youth in the South Dallas community.
The Junior League of Dallas, City of Dallas Arts and Culture and Friends of Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum partnered together to restore the house. Both restoration and rehabilitation of the house have been in the works since 2020.
The ceremony opened with an audio clip played from Craft, a welcome from Candace Thompson, board chair of Friends of Juanita Craft Civil Rights House, and a performance of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
“I am an American that happens to be of a darker hue than some other Americans,” said Craft in the recording. “I don’t believe in segregation, and I refuse to segregate myself, because that’s the only way I can say to the other fellow, “Don’t you segregate me.'”
Thompson went on to say the project to restore and reopen the house was a “labor of love.”
“Today we are gathered to celebrate a significant day in the life of our history, and we are here to celebrate a significant leader in the history of our city,” said Thompson. “It’s such an honor to reopen this historic home to the public and to share this place with the entire world.”
Dallas City Councilman Adam Bazaldua acknowledged Craft’s political history and her efforts to desegregate the State Fair of Texas through boycotts and coining the single day Black residents could attend the fair as “Negro Appeasement Day.”
“Today I’m standing on the shoulders of Miss Juanita Craft who served this district long before I was even born,” he said. “While her two terms on council are significant, another place where Ms. Craft made a huge impact was the State Fair of Texas.”
Another part of Craft’s history was Craft Kids, which referred to the youth working toward civil rights she mentored on the Dallas Youth Council. Patricia Perez, who serves on the board of Friends of Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House, was one of the people who was able to get to know and be mentored by Craft.
“I took a Lyft to where I used to live and walked the path I used to walk to her house, and it was so empowering,” said Perez. “We knew we were doing something special. She made us feel special. She was special. And I’m so glad this house is open. And I hope that it gives back to the community.”
Afterward, the Friends of Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House, City of Dallas, Junior League of Dallas and Office of Arts and Culture held the ribbon-cutting.
Guests were also able to enjoy a reception in the garden with snacks, drinks, and Juanita J. Craft pins in the garden. A limited number of people were let in at a time to tour the house, which is now complete with painted walls detailing facts and moments from Craft’s long career and display cases with memorabilia.
The Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum is located at 2618 Warren Ave., Dallas, TX.