State Fair of Texas Marion Butts Collection Dallas Public Library
The State Fair of Texas has a history of racial discrimination dating back to the 1880s. The first designated day for African-Americans to attend the fair was held in 1889 and was called “Colored People’s Day.” Educator Norman Washington Harllee organized exhibits and planned events and speakers including Booker T. Washington in 1900. In 1910, “Colored People’s Day” was discontinued and reappeared in 1936 as “Negro Achievement Day” set to coincide with the Texas Centennial Exposition. Contrary to the fact that African-Americans weren’t allowed to participate in entertainment or eat at restaurants and concession stands on other days during the run, fair officials touted “Negro Achievement Day” as a way to recognize the accomplishments and progress of the Negro race in Texas and the United States. The Hall of Negro Life was the only building demolished after the Texas Centennial ended. The Negro Chamber of Commerce worked with the State Fair board and sponsored the event and the day drew huge crowds from across the state. The day began with a parade including floats, convertibles with young women vying for the Queen crown and the presentation of the Most Distinguished Negro Citizen Award. In the afternoon, high school football games were played and culminated with a college game at night. Although many African-Americans didn’t consider the day a form of segregation, Juanita Craft didn’t agree. She felt like the money spent during that day contributed to segregation rather than fighting to end it. Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita Craft: Desegregating the State Fair of Texas.” Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas.
State Fair of Texas 1947 • Negro Achievement Day featured: • Twins contest • Queen contest • Parades with floats and marching bands • Football games • Entertainment • Baby Doll contest • 4H club events and contests • Left is an ad from the 10/11/1947 Dallas Express for the 2nd Annual Negro Achievement Day. • The Marion Butts Collection has many photos of parades, floats, the Twins and Baby Doll contest, the football games and the featured entertainment for the year.
State Fair of Texas 1955 From the 10-15-1955 Dallas Express, the ads and overview of the events scheduled for the fair in 1955. The NAACP Youth Council, under the guidance of their dynamic leader Juanita Craft, vowed to boycott Negro Achievement Day in 1955. Ms. Craft believed that youth were the future of the NAACP. Her energy and passion energized the Youth Council as she instilled confidence and determination in their fight against discrimination. Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita Craft: Desegregating the State Fair of Texas.” Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas.
State Fair of Texas1955 The Youth Council of the NAACP felt that any person of any race should be able to attend the fair on any day, not just a designated day, without discrimination. Ms. Craft talks about the movement that was organized so well by the youth in Dallas during that time, in “The Craft of Civil Rights” interview on the Humanities Texas page under “Sit Ins and Pickets”: http://humanitiestexas.org/newsroom/spotlights/February%2010/craft/index2.php To the left is a photo of the pickets from the Juanita Craft Collection at Texas/Dallas History at the Dallas Public Library. Also, see photo PA2005/4-206 in the Marion Butts Collection.
State Fair of Texas 1955 Juanita Craft spoke about how the Youth Council received an award from the NAACP for the organized protest of the fair in 1955. She said, “the fair day picket lines were not common in Dallas, and the news media, by noon, you had people down from all over the United States.” From Humanities Texas (http://humanitiestexas.org/newsroom/spotlights/February%2010/craft/index2.php)
State Fair of Texas 1955 From Juanita Craft on the Humanities Texas website (http://humanitiestexas.org/newsroom/spotlights/February%2010/craft/index2.php) “Those kids–we made signs all that weekend and on Monday the kids went to the starting point at Lincoln High School and boarded the floats right along with the queens and everybody else and rode down the streets saying, "Stay out. Don't sell your pride for a segregated ride," meaning the hobby horses and so forth out there. The kids were on top of people's houses along the route of the parade with megaphones telling about the segregated policy out there and to stay out. Well, it was a shame how much money was spent there ever year by people from all over the state, the football games and everything. But then your dignity had to be reckoned with. "Why would I come here this day and give every penny that I have to this concern who won't let me come back tomorrow?" So the moral issue was what we were fighting. The little girl who led that thing that year, she was a cheerleader at Lincoln High School. That band marched right up to the gate. When they got to the gate, but before the first float started in, somebody slipped her this placard saying, "Staying out." And she pointed and turned that whole parade, it didn't go into the fair. These are the kind of things that interest me. We didn't have a single youth get arrested or a single youth get hurt. They were hurt in a different manner.”
State Fair of Texas 1955 The Dallas Express of 10-22-1955 was filled with reports of the boycott staged by the NAACP Youth Council and the disagreement between the Negro Chamber of Commerce and the Youth Council. This page from the Dallas Express on that day shows the contrast of events that took place during that day vs. the confrontation. You can see more photos of State Fair events in the Marion Butts Collection.
State Fair of Texas 1955 The State Fair of Texas’ officials, in cooperation with the Negro Chamber of Commerce, had issued a policy which ended segregation except for two rides and restaurants in 1953. The two rides were said to involve physical contact with whites which might lead to violence. The Negro Chamber of Commerce in accordance with this agreement, did not want the Youth Council to stage the protest as they felt that the day was meant to honor their race and not promote segregation due to the policy change. Unfortunately, letters such as the one from Father Brown at the end of this article point to a different story. The bias was still there, no matter the policy. Also, in an ironic twist, the President of the Negro Chamber of Commerce was denied admission to a ride during the State Fair. This resulted in his resignation from the Negro Chamber of Commerce as he said he would not be part of an organization that supported segregation. Additional reference: Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita Craft: Desegregating the State Fair of Texas.” Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas
State Fair of Texas 1955 Here is an article from the 10-22-1955 Dallas Express on the protest at the fair. This protest was very organized and well attended by people of all ages. State Fair VP James Stewart expressed regret in that he felt the demonstration on Negro Achievement Day adversely affected the events planned for the day. He also reiterated that the fair has been a “pioneer in making available to Negroes throughout its run, facilities that are not open to them anywhere else in the state.”
The picket lasted all day and well into the night. Ms. Craft provided food and encouragement and the planned boycott was orderly with no violence. However, the local news had no report of the picket and the Dallas Morning News reported increased attendance and hailed the Negro Chamber of Commerce for rejecting the efforts of the NAACP to mar the day. The Dallas Express reported a more realistic view of the event by interviewing attendees who reported a more sparse crowd than usual and commended the youth for their stand against segregation and the Negro Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Craft followed up the picket of Negro Achievement Day with a plan to allow African-American youth to attend high school day through the efforts of white high school students to obtain free tickets. Unfortunately, the youth who participated were reprimanded and the leaders were stripped of honors, class offices and roles in school plays. Although the Youth Council’s efforts of 1955 did not desegregate the fair, it did increase their membership and educated youth on the struggle needed for equality. The council did not picket the fair in 1956 but instead offered alternative activities. Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita Craft: Desegregating the State Fair of Texas.” Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas
State Fair of Texas 1956 Brochure of Events Negro Achievement Day – October 15
State Fair of Texas 1956 Entertainment scheduled during Negro Achievement Day
State Fair of Texas 1957 State Fair ad in the Dallas Express 10-12-1957. The word “Negro” has been removed from the day.
State Fair of Texas1957 The Youth Council of the NAACP planned to not attend “Achievement Day” at the Texas State Fair in 1957. They conducted personal appearances urging other youth not to attend in that they felt that the dropping of the word “Negro” did not change the discrimination against African-Americans. From the Dallas Express, 10-5-1957
State Fair of Texas1957 In sharp contrast to the refusal of African Americans to attend the designated “Achievement Day”, a segregationist group was rumored to be attending the fair on that day in order to incite riots and use these riots as a basis for their stance against integration. The Youth Council of the NAACP intensified their call for the boycott by sending letters across the state urging citizens not to support the fair. From the Dallas Express, 10-12-1957
State Fair of Texas 1959 From the Dallas Express, 10-10-1959. The specific day finally ended in 1961. Segregation finally ended in 1967, as the fair opened all attractions and food concessions to people of all races. In addition, representatives from the African-American community marched in the opening day parade. Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita Craft: Desegregating the State Fair of Texas.” Legacies: a History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas.