Dr. Joe Louis Atkins Commemorative Symposium

In honor of the late Dr. Joe L. Atkins who recently passed away in Dallas, we announce the establishment of the Dr. Joe Louis Atkins Commemorative Symposium, to be conducted annually in different venues across Texas. The inaugural 2015 Atkins Symposium will be held later this year in Dallas addressing the role and place of Confederate symbols in contemporary Texas.

Dr. Atkins, born in Jefferson, Texas in 1936, was a graduate of Lincoln High School and a member of Juanita Craft’s South Dallas Youth Council from 1952-1954 and a lifelong colleague. He was the plaintiff in Atkins v. Matthews (1956) which desegregated North Texas State College (now University of North Texas), an English and journalism teacher in the Dallas Independent School District, field representative for the Texas State Teachers’ Association, and realtor at Blair White Realtors. Dr. Atkins was a congregant of Good Street Baptist Church and a founder of the Good Street Baptist Church Federal Credit Union.

A lifelong reader of history and social activist, he served on the boards of the African-American Museum of Dallas, The African American Archives and History Program (AAEAHP), NAACP, and the East Texas Historical Association. In 2004, the University of North Texas awarded Atkins an honorary doctorate of humane letters and established an annual scholarship named in his honor. In 2005, the Texas State Conference of State Branches awarded him the Texas NAACP Hero Award. Dr. Atkins was a founding trustee of The Juanita Craft Foundation.

His intelligence, grace and kindness are dearly missed by those who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Marjorie and son Joseph, and to all members of the extended Atkins family.

St. Matthew’s Church Purchase / Texas Historical Marker Dedication

The Juanita Craft Foundation is pleased to announce the July 2015 acquisition of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church adjacent to the Craft House and Memorial Garden. Our purchase adds over 27,000 square feet of land and the 4,400 square foot church property to be re-purposed into a visitors’ center and designed extension of the existing Craft garden. The addition of St. Matthew’s provides for the first time the expanded physical footprint and support facilities essential for creating a functional and sustainable public history site with the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Craft Civil Rights House serving as the centerpiece.

The Craft Civil Rights House, located in the Wheatley Place National Register District, is one of only a a handful of historic sites anywhere honoring a grass-roots organizer and political activist whose life epitomized the profound civic engagement that propelled the mid-20th century freedom movements across the United States.

The Texas Historical Commission marker dedication ceremony for the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House will be held on October 3rd 2015 in conjunction with the state convention of The Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches. The dedication will be followed by a reception at the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church.

Come prepared to celebrate the life and legacy of Juanita Craft (1902-1985) – a pivotal organizer, youth advocate, social activist and universalist whose special gift was the ability to surmount cultural, ethnic and social barriers and gather people together on the common field of their humanity.

This event is hosted by The Juanita Craft Foundation, the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and BlackPast.org, the preeminent online reference portal for African-American history. Blackpast.org and its founder – the historian Dr. Quintard Taylor – has been honored this year with a 2015 Jefferson Award for Public Service, and the 2015 Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award from the National Education Association.

Check back here August 10th for complete details for what promises to be a fascinating, provocative and collegial evening of remembrance and insight.

Craft Reconsidered: Spring 2016

Craft Reconsidered: The Noble Life hosted by The Juanita Craft Foundation, will be conducted in spring, 2016 in Dallas. Check back here for dates, program details and Eventbrite registration access. This symposium will bring together individuals from political, civic, labor and faith organizations to provide vivid, first-person insights into working with Juanita Craft and her contemporaries in conjunction with historians and journalists providing commentary and perspective.

The Craft Reconsidered weekend of fellowship and exploration will begin with a dinner program on a Thursday evening entitled “The Life and legacy of W.J. Durham: Lawyer. Crusader. Gentleman.” The compelling history and contemporary ramifications of Durham and his colleagues work on the Smith v Allwright (April 3 1944), Sweatt v Painter (June 5 1950) and McLaurin v Oklahoma (June 5 1950) Supreme Court rulings which set the stage for Brown v Topeka (May 17 1954) will be addressed. Juanita Craft, A. Maceo Smith and their peers in the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches were deeply involved in these cases crafted by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The central role of Texas in the mid-century Freedom Movements is essentially absent from the national historical narrative, and this event is focused on re-balancing this oversight.

The formal symposium will commence the following Saturday from 8:45 am – 11:15 am with The Craft of Politics: “We will change this!”, a moderated roundtable comprised of former and current political and appointed officeholders and executive staff members who worked directly with Juanita Craft in the political sphere. A panel of journalists, historians and political scientists will provide commentary.

The luncheon address will address a compelling subject from the 20th Century Texas Freedom Movements.

The first afternoon session running from 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm is “The fight is on!”: Craft, the NAACP and the Campaigns for First-Class Citizenship in the Texas Region is a moderated roundtable with members of the NAACP, NAACP Youth Councils and other organizations who worked with Juanita Craft in her battle against Jim Crow and its nuanced heirs. The second session, “Call & Response: The Faith Communities of Texas in the Age of Jim Crow” addresses the response of Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant and Unitarian congregations to American apartheid. Panelists in both sessions will be joined by journalists and scholars providing commentary.

In convening this broad mix of participants within the structure of a formal seminar, the organizers seek to enrich the primary historical record and inspire more scholarship in 20th century Texas Freedom Movements. Proceedings of Craft Reconsidered will be filmed and made available at http://www.juanitacraft.org.

Concurrent with the seminar, oral histories with those who knew Juanita Craft will be conducted.

We look forward to your joining us in Dallas as we journey together through this inspiring history.

I had no children so I adopted the world. – Juanita Craft

Standing on the shoulders of those who came before her, and stoking the fire for those who would follow, Juanita Jewel Craft (1902-1985) was an iconic civil rights and social justice reformer in the long-battle for first-class citizenship for African-American and other oppressed communities across 20th century Texas. Born forty years after The Emancipation Proclamation, Craft took up the mantle of leadership during the crucible years of the modern civil rights movement and left in her wake a more humane society. She vigorously advocated a post-racial vision for America, one of the earliest public figures in this region to do so.

The ability to surmount cultural, ethnic and social barriers and gather people together on the common field of their humanity was Juanita Craft’s special gift. A unique and beloved public figure, she bequeathed both her home at 2618 Warren Avenue in South Dallas and an extensive historical estate to the public so that future generations may come to understand the power of service to community and nation by individual citizens who rise to meet the continuing challenges of social inequality and lack of economic security.   

The Juanita Craft Foundation was established in 1985 at her request and honors our namesake primarily in three ways.

The Juanita Craft Civil Rights House and the adjacent Craft Memorial Garden in the Wheatley Place National Register District in Dallas, is owned by the city of Dallas under the auspices of The City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs. The 1920’s era Craftsman bungalow, the residence of Mrs. Craft from 1950 to 1985, was the organizational epicenter of major social justice campaigns in support of mid-century Texas Freedom Movements. The Craft House is only one of a handful of sites across the United States memorializing women activists from the 20th century civil rights and social justice movements. One of the Craft Foundation’s primary activities is funding a conservancy insuring the long-term sustainability of this historic site.     

The second focus of the Foundation is designing, sponsoring and conducting signature conferences, symposia and roundtables addressing fascinating yet understudied subjects within the field of 20th century Texas Freedom Movements. A number of events are being actively planned for the 2015-2016 program year.

The third initiative is an archival collection program, The Juanita Craft & Lulu White Oral/Materials History Consortium, that focuses on collecting then accessioning mid-century Texas Freedom Movement oral and material history to major university archives. 

The Juanita Craft Foundation, her partners and collaborators are committed to deepening the current historiography of The Texas Freedom Movements, identifying new areas for inquiry, broadening the pool of primary materials and encouraging scholarship through research grants. The Foundation endeavors to further the full incorporation of Texas Freedom Movement history into the constantly evolving master narrative of the civil rights and social justice histories referenced by academics, journalists and informed generalists across the United States.

For additional information, please contact G. Chandler Vaughan, Managing Trustee, at gcvaughan@juanitacraft.org 

Join us on our journey through this inspiring history.