Meaningful Monuments in the Works Across City of Dallas

The Office of Arts and Culture is working on significant projects honoring figures like Anderson Bonner, a former slave turned wealthy land owner in Dallas.

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Art is timeless. It can be a way to memorialize, teach and understand.

That's why there is a number of meaningful monuments recognizing crucial figures and moments in Dallas' civil rights history in the works, which you will see in the next year.

There are about 25 projects total on tap for the City of Dallas’ Office of Arts and Culture, many of which are resonating with current events.

“These are addressing issues of equity in our city that have always been there but are not as visually prominent as they could be,” said public art program manager, Kay Kallos. “And those visual reminders through public art will help to tell those stories to the next generations, which I think is incredibly important."

Here is an update on some of the monuments that are in progress:

Anderson Bonner

Anderson Bonner came to Dallas as a slave in early to mid-1800s. After emancipation, he started acquiring land and turned in a very wealthy and prominent landholder in Dallas, one of the first in the city.

"When he purchased this land, he purchased a little bit at a time, in increments," said Dr. George Keaton Jr., founder and executive director of nonprofit Remembering Black Dallas. "The first land he bought was actually next to his former slave owner. He then hired people to work for him, kind of like sharecropping. He would allow people to lease his land and they would trade goods and food. It increased until he got into the thousands of acres."

That land included area where Medical City now stands, all the way toward Hillcrest and Hamilton Park, as well as the Forest Lane and Greenville Avenue areas.

Dallas Morning News
Anderson Bonner in a photograph dating to the mid to late 1800s.

"He could not read or write. He's noted for his signature with an 'X'," Dr. Keaton said. "Most African-American former slaves had a special 'X' and I guess they made it in some kind of way that was different from any other 'X'. So it’s documented that all of the land that he purchased with signed with an 'X'."

His first home was in White Rock Creek, where Anderson Bonner Park is. Dr. Keaton said Bonner's last surviving great-granddaughter still lives in the North Dallas area where he owned land.

Right now, Bonner’s descendants have been working with the City of Dallas to create a piece of art that will go up in the very park named after him.

Here’s an artist rendering of the huge, 10-foot monument, featuring a medallion with his image.

Artist rendering of the monument, showing how large the piece is to scale. (Courtesy: Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas)

“His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have been very involved in the development of this monument, which is also symbolically associated with various aspects of African-American culture,” said Kallos.

Dr. Keaton said Bonner's life story serves as an inspiration to others in overcoming adversity and creating a meaningful future for their families.

"I do believe after this, he will become a useful inspiration to young people that this is what you can do. Starting from nothing, you can have this and if you apply yourself, you can have the 5,000 acres," he said.

Dr. Keaton said a state marker bearing his image is also in the works, alongside the monument.

"I really think the fact that we are able to give him a monument and a state marker, more people will find out about him. Because right now there’s very little known," he said. "I think the park even being named after him -- people whose soccer teams and people that go there to run and jog -- they have no idea of the history and legacy. That’s why I think it’s very important that this Texas State marker and monument will have an image of him."

The Bonner monument will be completed later this year.

The Office of Arts and Culture is working on significant projects that speak to current events and may serve as a starting point of conversation and understanding, NBC 5’s Alanna Quillen reports.

Memorial for Victims of Racial Violence

Another project in progress is a Memorial for Victims of Racial Violence. The piece is in artist selection so it has yet to be developed until an artist is picked.

The memorial will go up in Martyrs Park, honoring the lynching of three slaves for whom that park is named.

Dr. Keaton these artworks will not solve the problems we continue to face today but it is a starting point for necessary conversation that needs to be had so that we all can learn from our very own history in Dallas. People just need to take action to visit the monuments.

"Go there and see it. and study it. And try to understand. Yes, it's a tool, there's a tool in place. But if you have a hammer laying on a table and you have a house to fix -- if you don't pick it up, it won't work. it won't get done,” he said. "Hopefully we will start -- in a small way -- changing the racial issues and the mindset of people who just really aren't aware of these things."

Santos Rodriguez

Santos Rodriguez was just 12 years old when his life was tragically cut short in 1973 in West Dallas when he was murdered by a Dallas police officer.

A sculpture will go up in Pike Park, the neighborhood where he once played.

Courtesy: Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas

“It is a sculpture that is figurative. The face is reflective of Santos’ his face. It’s a very uplifting statue. The family and Santos’ mother were involved in this and very supportive of this,” said Kallos.

Adelfa Cajello

Civil rights lawyer Adelfa Cajello led marches in protest to Rodriguez’ death. She fearlessly fought for the rights of immigrants, minority communities and police scrutiny.

"She fought the way for single-member representation on the city council, which made a big difference -- not just for Latinos but the African American community -- so that we could have a voice at city hall,” said Monica Lira Bravo, an immigration attorney and board member for the Cajello-Botello Foundation.

Another statue in the works right now will be dedicated to Cajello. The piece, donated by the foundation, will be the very first statue of a Latina ever to be erected in Dallas.

Courtesy: Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas

"She led many fights for civil rights and so we think that it is very fitting that she be the first Latina and hopefully not the last to be recognized in our city,” said Lira Bravo. "We think it's very important for future generations of Latinos know about her and the mark that she left on not just the Latino community, but all of the Dallas community."

The bronze piece will go up at the Main Street Garden Park, facing UNT Dallas College of Law. It’s also the very park where black rights protestors gathered over the weekend.


"I think it's a perfect place for communities of color to be able to rally around and be proud that they have a space for them in the city of Dallas. And I know that if she was still alive, she would be right up there in the front, helping lead the march against injustice,” said Lira Bravo.

Other projects

Jimmy & Stevie Ray Vaughan

You may have noticed something different sitting in the middle of Keist Park these last few months. It's a 10-foot-tall statue dedicated to brothers Jimmie and Stevie Ray Vaughan, just blocks from where they grew up. The two brothers became famous blues rock legends, but Stevie was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in 1990. The lyrics to his inspirational song “Tick Tock" are inscribed on the monument along with childhood photos of the brothers. The statue is covered to protect it until it's official unveiling in October, which will be virtual.

Courtesy: Office of Arts & Culture, City of Dallas

Hillcrest Village Green

A public art piece will be going into the new Hillcrest Village Green park along Arapahoe Road. It’s an area of North Dallas with very few works of public art. The piece is completed and awaiting installation. A virtual dedication will take place in November. 

Dallas Animal Services

The city animal facility will be having two pieces installed in the street median just south of the animal services building. Two of them will be sculptures depicting pets looking for homes and the other one is a large stainless steel bone. The art can be seen while driving along I-30 westbound.

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