Fort Worth

Activist Lenora Rolla Led North Texas in Civil Rights Movement

During Black History Month, NBC 5 is taking a closer look at the men and women who broke barriers and the people shaping the future for North Texas.

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Lenora Rolla famously said, “Now is the time to do things.”

Rolla became well-known for her leadership and activism during the Civil Rights Movement in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Rolla graduated from I.M. Terrell the first public school for African Americans in 1921. She then went on to earn a degree at Alcorn College in Mississippi.

In the 1950’s Rolla was credited with opening the Hattie Street Haven community center on the east side of Fort Worth. It was known as a neighborhood community center. It was also used to get people together and organize boycotts. Those boycotts were against local businesses that refused to hire black people. She also used the center to encourage people to vote in Fort Worth.

Credit: Tarrant County Black Historical Society

She was also selected to serve with the Conference on Community Leaders under President Lyndon B. Johnson. That group participated in the historic March on Washington where Rolla had the opportunity to watch Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Her contributions were far from over though. She was asked to join a Fort Worth committee that was to put together a comprehensive look at the history of African-Americans in Fort Worth. A few years later, she founded the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society in 1977. The history museum, born from that society, is now named in her honor. According to the center’s website, Rolla was personally responsible for the recovery and preservation of most of Tarrant County’s African-American artifacts.

The Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum is on Humbolt Street in Historic Southside of Fort Worth.

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