25 May Juanita Craft and her persistence
Juanita Jewel Craft was an important state and local strategist who worked for the National Association For The Advancement Of Color People ( NAACP).. The NAACP was responsible for advocacy for racial impartiality in the state of Texas. Craft was active in the NAACP politics and constantly antagonized Texas segregationist policies from 1930 till her death. Craft was born in Round Rock, Texas, on February 9, 1902, to David and Eliza Shanks. Her parents were educators so quite naturally she would be influenced by their teachings and influence to be impactful in her local community.
At age 16, Craft’s fire was lit when her mother Eliza was diagnosed with Tuberculosis and turned away from a hospital that specialized in the treatment of TB based on the color of her skin. Her mother shortly succumbed afterwards due to the ailment. This experience was one of many significant drivers prompting Craft to join the civic life and fight for equity and equality in Texas and elsewhere.
In the 1940’s Craft helped form NAACP chapters throughout the state of Texas. Subsequently, she was active in pickets and sit-ins in the 50’s & 60’s. In a 1984 interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, she referred to herself as a “young hothead” when she started her civil rights crusade. Craft’s resilience and drive was pertinent as she helped organized over 180 NAACP branches in a 11year time span. In 1944 she was the first black woman allowed to vote in an election in Dallas County, Texas.
After the success in the Brown V. Board of Education case, Craft accelerated the integration of the Texas Law University with the Dallas Independent School District. Her parents influence in making education a priority never left the heart of Craft as she took the first black student to North Texas State University to attempt to enroll and won during litigation. Joe Atkins was a student granted access to enroll at the University due to the diligence of Craft. After graduating and returning back to Dallas Atkins stated “She was a great lady who worked to open doors, She spent her entire life opening doors for other people.”
Craft was no stranger to opposition as she often sat in “Whites Only” sections on trains during her travels. Her efforts in the fight for equity stretched far and wide, proven in 1955 when she and others influenced the State Fair of Texas to open its doors to people from all races rather than hold a “Negro Achievement Day” which limited access for African Americans and other non-whites admission. Juanita Craft was a Democratic precinct chairman from 1952 to 1975 and served two terms on the Dallas City Council between 1975 and 1979.
She had an extraordinary legacy of community service, which caused her to be awarded and acknowledged on numerous occasions. The NAACP Golden Heritage Life Membership Prize (1978) was one that was near and dear to her. She also received the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award (1984) as well as many others. Craft passed August 6 1985, her legacy in Dallas, Texas was celebrated with the establishment of the Juanita Jewel Craft Recreational Center. The site serves as a memory for her dedication to African Americans and the call for racial equity in Texas. One thing about Juanita Craft is that she never bit her tongue, always telling it like it is. A quote from her that stands out to me the most is… “When I finally do leave this Earth, I want them to remember one thing- I raised hell with them.”
That you did. That you did!