Dallas is a city that was built by iconic men — and women.
For nearly a hundred years, the Junior League of Dallas has fostered the development of female leaders for the growth of this community. As the Junior League approaches its 100-year anniversary next year, we felt a strong conviction to use this milestone to honor the women who played an integral role in shaping our magnificent city.
After countless conversations during the last few years, we could think of no better centennial project than to honor one iconic Texas and Dallas woman, Juanita J. Craft.
Craft was an inspiring figure on both the Dallas political and civic stages for many years. Recognized as one of the most significant figures of the civil rights movement in Texas, Craft was the second Black woman to serve on the Dallas City Council. She is credited with desegregating the State Fair of Texas in 1967 — a truly remarkable feat at that time.
When luminaries passed through Dallas, her home served as a popular gathering spot for world leaders and civil rights activists, including U.S. Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King Jr., musician Duke Ellington, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Craft was a remarkable, strong, self-trained visionary who dedicated herself to others and volunteered tirelessly to make Dallas an inclusive city. These personal traits and her resulting legacy are aligned in so many ways to the Junior League’s mission of developing the potential of women, improving the community and supporting a commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion. Craft exemplifies the type of transformational leadership each Junior League member aspires to. We are inspired by Craft, whose life shows us that one passionate woman can change the heart of a city.
Since her death in 1985, the city of Dallas has owned and operated her former home, a Craftsman-style bungalow in the Wheatley Place Historic District in South Dallas, just a few blocks from Fair Park. In 2018, the city attempted to turn this landmark into an educational museum, but efforts came to a halt when a sprinkler pipe burst in the attic and flooded the home.
The cost of the restoration is estimated at $1.4 million, which is being raised to fund renovations and for the development of curriculum for adults and students to learn more about Craft, tolerance, and civil rights history in Dallas. To date, the city, in partnership with numerous civic and community organizations, has raised $750,000 for restoration efforts. The Junior League will cover all remaining costs to finish the restoration.
In 2016, the Junior League Centennial Committee began scouting for a special project to mark this milestone and inspire all Dallasites for generations. Our leaders sought a project that would have a lasting, positive impact on our city; serve all in our community; align with the Junior League’s mission; and improve Dallas for the next century. Active research started in 2018, and after visiting numerous potential projects and conducting countless interviews over a two-year period, the centennial committee unanimously chose the restoration of the Juanita J. Craft House and Museum.
The Junior League’s two-pronged centennial gift will cover both remaining restoration costs and new educational programming for adults, develop public school curriculum, and establish ongoing partnerships with the African American Museum, Fair Park and the Friends of Juanita Craft. Because the project is in the planning phase, we will continue to monitor construction estimates and curriculum expenses to determine the final donation amount. The project will be completed in March 2022.
In addition, we are working closely with the city to secure the home’s designation as a historical landmark on the Civil Rights Trail, which would be the first in the state of Texas.
As we approach our centennial anniversary, the Junior League of Dallas is honored and excited to celebrate Juanita Craft. She exemplifies our centennial theme: “the Junior League of Dallas, Legacy of Leadership, Devotion to Dallas for 100 years.”
Elizabeth Dacus is president of the Junior League of Dallas.
Sarah Jackson is centennial project chair of the Junior League of Dallas.
Margo Goodwin is centennial co-chair of the Junior League of Dallas.
Andrea Cheek is centennial co-chair of the Junior League of Dallas.
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