Juanita Craft was a Dallas civil rights large. Her residence ought to mirror that significance.

The flood that damaged the historic home of civil rights activist Juanita Craft in South Dallas three years ago was a disaster that discouraged community members and conservationists.

But that burst pipe could turn out to be the twist in history that ensures that Craft’s legacy lives on in the collective memory of Dallas.

Juanita Craft at a NAAP convention two months before her death in August 1985(David Woo / employee photographer)

The devastation in Crafts Craftsman’s 1920s bungalow on Warren Avenue – the collapsed ceiling, battered wood floors, soaked papers – rocked the city council and bourgeois leaders. This wasn’t just any historic house, after all. It was a bed and breakfast for black musicians while Jim Crow, a center for civil rights activists who campaigned for desegregation for the State Fair and other Dallas institutions, and a cradle for more than 180 NAACP chapters and youth councils.

Craft, the first black woman to vote in Dallas County and the second black woman to serve on the Dallas City Council, died in 1985 and bequeathed her home to the city for preservation. Dallas opened it as a museum in 1994, but it worked sporadically, largely forgotten, but for the occasional group tour. It was far from the tribute Craft and their hard-earned victories had deserved.

That is changing thanks to the hard work of the City Art and Culture Bureau and the Dallas Junior League who made restoring the Craft home their centenary project. On Wednesday, the city council accepted the final donation to go to the city’s coffers for the project: a donation package of $ 250,000 from multiple philanthropic groups raised by the Junior League of Dallas in partnership with the city.

Jennifer Scripps, the city’s director of arts and culture, told us that more than $ 1 million had been raised for the restoration of the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House, even though the city still has not reached its destination. We commend the Junior League of Dallas for doing most of the private fundraising. Another major contribution came in 2019 from the National Park Service, which awarded the city a $ 500,000 grant to help preserve the history of civil rights.

Governor Greg Abbott takes off his mask before leaving on Tuesday, April 2.

Despite the upheaval of the pandemic, the house is scheduled to reopen in summer 2022. The money raised will cover the construction costs – which are more laborious and expensive than your typical building due to the monument protection – as well as new exhibits and programs.

“We don’t want it to be a sleepy house-museum,” Scripps told us. “We want it to involve and inspire people so that they can be inspired by Ms. Craft.”

Several city council members praised the project this week, noting Craft’s place among the leaders of Dallas who shaped this city for the better.

“Juanita Craft was a legend not just for the African American community in Dallas, but for the entire city of Dallas,” said Councilor Casey Thomas.

We hope that the redesign of the Fair Park will stimulate the efforts of the city to draw attention to the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House and that the teaching of the museum will also find its way into the curricula of our city.

“If we don’t tell these stories and don’t keep these places now, they’re lost,” said Scripps. “And it just gets harder the further you get from history.”

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