Texas Women’s History Month: Juanita Craft
The granddaughter of former slaves and the daughter of educators, civil rights activist Juanita Craft grew up in Austin and attended Prairie View and Huston-Tillotson universities, but even with a college education could only find work as a drugstore clerk in Galveston, as a dressmaker in Dallas, and as a maid at the historic Adolphus Hotel.
She joined the Dallas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1935, and from that time on worked tirelessly for the cause of civil rights. As an NAACP state field organizer, she helped organize 182 branches through the state of Texas. Her work with the NAACP youth council in Dallas was so successful that it was emulated by other chapters around the country. She held the distinction of being the first black woman to vote in Dallas County in 1944, and in the 1950s and 1960s led protests aimed at integrating public universities and the State Fair of Texas. She led the NAACP youth council in picketing restaurants, theaters, public transportation, and other venues in Dallas.
Craft was elected to the Dallas City Council in 1975 when she was 73 years old. She held leadership positions in local, state, and national civil rights organizations and won numerous awards. The City of Dallas named a recreation center in her honor, and her simple frame house is now the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House Museum.