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City honors civil rights legend Juanita Craft with proclamation on her birthday

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

Plans move forward for renovations to the activist’s South Dallas home, which was damaged in a 2018 flood.

Candace Thompson
(From left) Candace Thompson, board chair of the Friends of Juanita Craft House and Museum, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, Christa Sanford, president of Junior League of Dallas, Ella Goode Johnson, Chairwoman of the Arts and Cultural Advisory Commission of the City of Dallas and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., pose with the proclamation of Juanita Craft Day during an event honoring Craft’s legacy and her 120th Birthday at City Hall on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, in Dallas, TX.(Juan Figueroa / Staff Photographer)

By Sriya Reddy

The city of Dallas proclaimed Feb. 9 as Juanita Craft Day to honor the civil rights activist on her 120th birthday as efforts to restore her South Dallas home move forward.

Craft led civil rights activism in Dallas from about 1950 until her death in 1985. She advocated for integration in Dallas, including at the State Fair, and organized numerous NAACP youth chapters throughout Texas. Much of her work educating youth was done right in her own backyard.

Candace Thompson is the board chair of the Friends of Juanita Craft House and Museum. Thompson said that she felt seen through Craft’s work.

“She was a forerunner before all of us, before our city was ready to embrace inclusivity,” Thompson said. “I think it’s beautiful to see all the things that she did start to come to fruition.”

One of Craft’s last wishes was for her home to continue to be a place of learning and become a museum.

On Wednesday, the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs accepted a gift of $176,000 from the Junior League of Dallas, raised through private donations, for the restoration of the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House, which was damaged due to a flood in 2018. It is part of the $1.4 million in funding the Junior League has raised for the project so far.

Thompson is looking forward to the renovation, but said that this work is more than just the house.

“With this house being restored, our hopes are that it also brings about revitalization, and growth, and development with the community moving forward,” she said.

At a ceremony issuing the proclamation, Mayor Eric Johnson said that during Black History Month especially, it’s important to recognize Dallas’ role in the civil rights movement.

“In this city, we’re going to acknowledge and celebrate our history,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to forget our past. We’re going to embrace it and we’re going to learn from it. And I think we’re a better city for it.”

Adam Bazaldua, councilmember representing District 7, said that this day is not only to commemorate the work of Craft, but also to build upon and uplift South Dallas.

“It’s almost counterproductive for us to highlight a woman who fought her entire life to break those barriers if we allow for those barriers to continue to exist,” Bazaldua said. “So we’ve got to be proactive and aggressive at continuing to break those barriers down.”

CLARIFICATION, 9:15 a.m., Feb. 10, 2022: An earlier version of this story that said the Junior League of Dallas raised $176,000 for the restoration of the Juanita Craft House, should have made clear that the gift accepted Wednesday is part of the $1.4 million in funding raised by the Junior League for the project thus far.

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