Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 16, Number 01, Spring, 2004 Page: 21
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policy, but the board avoided the sensitive issue
by stating, "The time is not right." In 1953 the
Negro Chamber of Commerce met with the
State Fair Executive Committee, which agreed
to open the fairgrounds to African Americans,
except for the restaurants and two amusement
rides, "Laff in the Dark" and "Dodge 'em
Scooter." On these rides, according to General
Manager James H. Stewart, "physical contact
with whites was involved," contact which R. L.
Thornton, mayor of Dallas and president of the
State Fair, feared would "create a situation that
would lead to violence."'
The Negro Chamber of Commerce continued
to promote Negro Achievement Day, convinced
that its support had gradually weakened
segregation policies over the years.The NAACP,
however, believed that segregation in any form
should not be fostered and that the discrimination
should be immediately eliminated. In
response to a statement by John W Rice, executive
secretary of the Negro Chamber, that the
state fair "does not practice segregation in any
manner," Mrs. Craft and her youth council set
out in October 1955 to expose and protest discrimination
at the fair.'
Carefully planning their attack, they printed
signs and handbills that encouraged blacks to stay
away from the fair. They wrote to General
Benjamin Oliver Davis, the first African
American to attain the rank of general and
recipient of the State Fair's 1955 Most
Distinguished Negro Citizen Award, telling him
they were going to picket the fair and asking
him not to cross the line. He agreed and
informed fair officials that he would be unable to
attend. The week before Negro Achievement
Day, Mrs. Craft sent 100 members of her council
to assess the discrimination at the fair. With
pockets full of change supplied by Mrs. Craft, the
youth iade a thorough investigation over five
days, testing the restrooms, rides, restaurants, and
burlesque shows. Despite a letter sent by fair officials
to concessionaires urging them "to be nice"
to the black youths, they found a well-estab
lished pattern of discrimination and were often
treated rudely and told to leave and come back
on Negro Achievement Day.7
Mrs. Craft's youths were not the only ones
who reported discrimination at the fair that
week. On Thursday, October 13, attorney C. B.
Bunkley, president of the Negro Chamber of
Commerce, was denied admission to the fun
house and told to wait until Negro Achievement
Day. He described the incident to the chamber
and recommended that they immediately withdraw
support from the special day, which they
voted to do. Reacting quickly, Mayor Thornton
sent a message to the Negro Chamber promising
that the two rides, "Laff in the Dark" and
"Dodge 'em Scooter," would be opened to
blacks throughout the remainder of the fair, but
because of"moral and legal commitments," the
eating concessions would remain closed. The
chamber met and rescinded its vote, announcing
that its withdrawal would not become effective
until the close of the 1955 State Fair. Bunkley
promptly resigned as president of the chamber,
refusing to remain a part of an organization that
On Negro Achievement Day, October 17,
1955, Mrs. Craft and the Dallas NAACP Youth
Council gathered at 7 A.M. to picket the gates
leading to the fairgrounds. As the elaborate
parade entered the gates amid thousands of spectators,
the pickets created chaos and confusion.
They greeted the parade and patrons with placards
boldly stating: "This is Negro Appeasement
Day-Keep Out," "Don't Sell Your Pride for a
Segregated Ride-Stay Out," and "Racial
Segregation is Un-Clean, Un-American, and
Un-Moral-Stay Out." The youths distributed
handbills claiming a visit to the fair would bring
black patrons "humiliation and disgrace." Some
of the marching bands turned away from the
gates, and many students in the parade broke
ranks, picked up signs, and joined the pickets.
While many local patrons refused to cross the
line, those from out of town entered but said if
they had known of the pickets in advance, they
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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/m1/23/: accessed August 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.