Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 19
This periodical is part of the collection entitled: Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas and was provided to The Portal to Texas History by the Dallas Historical Society.
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Behind her rimless, round glasses her eyes
shone with vigor and enthusiasm. Her ready,
contagious, sometimes mischievous grin drew
the teenagers to her. She was known for her
quick wit and sense of humor and her love of a
practical joke. Above all, the youths responded
to Juanita Craft because she inspired and
encouraged them. She believed "a child's life
can be a closed door or an open sky. It's my
duty to let the children see how big the sky is."
She sought to expose them to new experiences
and opportunities, to get them out of a disadvantaged
environment, and as she said, "Put a
two days were set aside to accommodate the
crowds. Fair officials claimed that Negro
Achievement Day was inaugurated to recognize
the accomplishments and progress of the
Negro race in Texas and in the nation.3
For more than fifteen years, the Dallas
Negro Chamber of Commerce, co-operating
with the State Fair board, sponsored the day and
drew huge crowds for the event. African
Americans from all over Texas looked forward to
a day of fun and festivity at the fair. The
pageantry began with a parade of the best Negro
marching bands in the state, ornate floats, and
dream in their head. Convince
them it's their responsibility to
make the dream grow."'
One of the most prolonged
battles ofJuanita Craft's
youth council was against the
State Fair of Texas. A beloved
state institution, the fair was
the largest in the country.
During its entire two-week
run, however, African
Americans were allowed only
one day, the second Monday in
October, to enjoy the fair. On
other days they were admitted
Racial discrimination at the
State Fair dated to its origins
in the 1880s.
At least as early as 1889,
the fair designated a specific
day, called "Colored People's
Day," during which blacks
convertibles with beautiful
young women leading patrons
to the Hall of State, where the
Most Distinguished Negro
Citizen Award was presented. In
the Cotton Bowl, high school
football teams played during the
afternoon, and college rivals,
such as Prairie View and Wiley,
competed at night. Black
schools closed for the day and
gave students free admission
tickets. Chartered busloads of
youths arrived very early in the
morning for a full day at the
to the grounds, but they couldn't patronize
recreational rides, concessions, or shows, and
they were generally treated as intruders.
Racial discrimination at the State Fair
dated to its origins in the 1880s.At least as early
as 1889, the fair designated a specific day, called
"Colored People's Day," during which blacks
could participate. Prominent educator Norman
Washington Harllee, principal of the Dallas
Colored High School, organized exhibits and
brought notable speakers. In 1900 blacks
flocked to the fair to hear educator Booker T.
Washington. But ten years later, Colored
People's Day was discontinued for lack of participation.
During the Texas Centennial
Exposition of 1936, the segregated day reappeared
as Negro Achievement Day, and in 1947
fair. Negro Achievement Day was also designated
Negro Crippled Children's Day and the
Terrell State Hospital Negro Group Day.4
Many African Americans didn't consider
Negro Achievement Day a form of segregation,
but Juanita Craft always viewed it that way, and
each year she encouraged her youths to boycott
it. In 1951 Mrs. Craft joined the NAACP in
opposition to the segregated day and commented
to Walter White, executive director of the
NAACP in NewYork, that the 182,347 Negroes
who attended the fair spent at least three dollars
per person to perpetuate segregation, while "we
have to beg for two dollars per year to fight Jim
Crow." The same year, Joe C. Thompson, who
was in charge of Negro Achievement Day, urged
the State Fair board to change its segregation
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Dallas Historical Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004, periodical, 2004; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35092/m1/21/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.