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Dallas Junior League helps restore civil rights legend's historic Fair Park home

Dallas Junior League helps restore civil rights legend's historic home

Juanita Craft historic home
The Juanita J. Craft home is a Dallas landmark. Photo courtesy of Junior League of Dallas
Juanita Craft
Juanita Craft (1902-1985) was a leading civil rights activist in Texas. Photo courtesy of Junior League of Dallas
Juanita Craft historic home
Juanita Craft

Despite the COVID-cancellation if its signature 2020 fundraiser, the Junior League of Dallas is taking on a significant new civic cause in honor of its 100th anniversary. 

As its Centennial Anniversary project, JLD will help restore the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House & Museum, a historic home in Dallas' Fair Park neighborhood, the organization announced September 15. The home was once owned by Juanita J. Craft (1902-1985), one of the leading civil rights figures in Texas and the second Black woman to serve on the Dallas City Council. Her home served as a popular gathering spot for civil rights activists when they came to Dallas, including President Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., President Jimmy Carter, musician Duke Ellington, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, JLD says.

The Dallas nonprofit will partner with the City of Dallas on its existing effort to restore the home, which is expected to be completed in March 2022, according to a news release. This includes securing the home’s designation as a historic landmark on the Civil Rights Trail, which would be the first in Texas.

“The Juanita Craft House honors a Dallas legend who devoted her life to fighting for civil rights,” Dallas mayor Eric Johnson says in the release. “Our city is better because of Juanita Craft’s actions, her legacy, and the example she set. And we will all be better for a visit to her house when it reopens."

The city has owned and operated Craft's Craftsman Bungalow in the Wheatley Place Historic District since her death in 1985. Longtime efforts to turn the house into an educational museum came to a halt in 2018 when a sprinkler pipe burst in the attic and flooded the home. Repair costs were estimated at more than $1.2 million. Fundraising efforts have been ongoing, but the city has been unable to get across the finish line.

In honor of its 100th year, the JLD will donate a final financial gift to help complete repairs and renovations and reopen the museum to the public.

The specific amount of JLD's financial commitment was not disclosed. However, the organization says, additional funds will be raised by its Centennial Committee to establish ongoing educational programming at the house, along with developing curriculum and fostering partnerships with the African American Museum and Fair Park. 

“We have been working closely with the City of Dallas for more than two years to determine how we could help save the Juanita Craft House and restore it as a place for visiting students and others to learn more about Civil Rights history in Dallas," says Margo Goodwin, JLD Centennial co-chair. "The city’s mission was something we wanted to be a part of as an extension of the league’s ongoing diversity and inclusion initiatives. We are eagerly anticipating the reopening of the Juanita Craft House to visitors in early 2022 and to making this a special place for the public to enjoy in the decades to come.”

Junior League of Dallas chooses a special project to support for each milestone anniversary.

“Funds raised for this special anniversary project are above and beyond the existing commitments to the nearly 40 agencies the JLD supports each year with its trained volunteer service commitments and financial support," says Centennial co-chair Andrea Cheek.

Junior League's major annual fundraising event is its beloved Milestones Luncheon. After a blockbuster 2019 luncheon starring actress Keri Russell, the 2020 edition got canceled and re-scheduled for March 26, 2021, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel.