Marion Butts - State Fair

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
•Football games
•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
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”:
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
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
State Fair of Texas 1955
From Juanita Craft on the Humanities Texas website
“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 10-221955 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
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
Additional reference:
Burrow, R.N. (2004).“Juanita
Craft: Desegregating the
State Fair of Texas.”
Legacies: a History Journal
for Dallas and North Central
State Fair of Texas 1955
Here is an article from the 1022-1955 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 AfricanAmerican 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
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 1012-1957. 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 AfricanAmericans.
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, 10-101959.
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 AfricanAmerican 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.
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