Dr. Joe Louis Atkins & Marjorie Manning Atkins Commemorative Symposium

To honor Dr. Joe L. Atkins and his wife Marjorie Manning Atkins who both passed away in 2015, we announce establishment of the Atkins Commemorative Symposium to be conducted annually in different venues across Texas. The inaugural 2017 Atkins Commemorative Symposium will be held this coming Spring in Dallas addressing the historical context and appropriate display of the numerous and varied expressions of the Confederate legacy in contemporary Texas. The organizers include the East Texas Historical Association, Texas Historical Commission, Briscoe Center for American History and Southern Methodist University amongst others. Please check back here starting November 1, 2016 for symposium details and registration.

Dr. Atkins, born in Jefferson, Texas in 1936, was a graduate of Lincoln High School, University of Texas at El Paso (B.A.) and University of North Texas (M.A.). He was president of Juanita Craft’s South Dallas Youth Council from 1952-1954 and was the plaintiff in Atkins v. Matthews (1956) which desegregated North Texas State College (now University of North Texas). After service in the U.S. Army, he taught English and journalism in the Dallas Independent School District then served as field representative for the Texas State Teachers’ Association followed by a career as a realtor. 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 committed social activist, Atkins 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.

Marjorie Manning Atkins, born in Houston, Texas in 1939, was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School and received both her B.S and M.Ed. from Prairie View A&M University. Ms. Atkins taught in the Houston and Dallas Independent School districts, and was an active member of Delta Sigma Theta and numerous other philanthropic organizations.

The Atkins’ intelligence, grace and kindness are dearly missed.

The Juanita Craft Foundation is pleased to announce our forthcoming acquisition of the St. Matthew’s Baptist Church property (now home to The Remnant of Faith congregation) adjacent to the Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Craft House and Memorial Garden. Our purchase will add over 4,400 square feet of built space to be re-purposed into a visitors’ center (complementing the facility’s primary function as The Remnant of Faith church) and 18,000 square feet of interpreted green space as an extension of the existing Craft garden. The addition of the church property will provide for the first time the physical footprint and support facilities essential for creating a functional, sustainable public history site honoring the legacy of Juanita Craft.

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

The Texas Historical Commission marker dedication ceremony for the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House will be held in December 2016 followed by a reception at The Remnant of Faith Church. Please check back here starting November 1 2016 for details regarding the dedication ceremony. 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 her ability to surmount cultural, ethnic and social barriers and gather people together on the common field of their humanity.

This event will be 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, received the 2015 Jefferson Award from The Jefferson Awards Foundation, and the 2015 Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award from the National Education Association (NEA). BlackPast.org is dedicated to fostering understanding through knowledge in order to generate constructive change in our society.

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating, provocative and collegial afternoon of remembrance and insight as we dedicate both the Craft House historical marker and celebrate the re-purposing of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church property. Please contact G. Chandler Vaughan at gcvaughan@juanitacraft.org for additional information.

Church Property Purchase / Texas Historical Marker Dedication

Craft Reconsidered: Spring 2017

Craft Reconsidered: The Noble Life hosted by The Juanita Craft Foundation, will be conducted Spring, 2017 in Dallas at The Adolphus Hotel. Juanita Craft worked at The Adolphus from 1925-1934 and befriended Eleanor Roosevelt there who played a major role in helping launch Craft’s social activist career. Check back here for dates, program details and Eventbrite registration in December 2016. This symposium will bring together individuals from political, civic, labor and faith organizations to provide vivid, first-person insights of working with Juanita Craft and her contemporaries in conjunction with historians and journalists who will provide commentary and perspective followed by extensive audience Q & A.

The Craft Reconsidered weekend of fellowship and exploration will begin with a dinner program in partnership with the Texas and Dallas Bar Associations 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 – 11:30 am with The Craft of Politics: “The Fight is On!”, a moderated round table 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 NAACP executives, journalists, historians and political scientists will provide commentary and perspective.

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

The entire afternoon session running from 1:30 pm – 5:00 pm is “Call and Response”: The Faith Communities of Texas in the Age of Jim Crow addresses the response of Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations and church polity to American apartheid. Panelists representing various faiths and denominations will be joined by journalists, church historians 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 published and made available at craftfoundation.wordpress.com.

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

We look forward to your joining us at The Adolphus 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 2016-2017 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, Director, at gcvaughan@juanitacraft.org 

Join us on our journey through this inspiring history.