Federal Money to Help Restore Historic Dallas' Juanita Craft House

Supporters need $250,000 to reach $1 million goal

A $500,000 federal grant will help restore the historic Juanita Craft House as a South Dallas civil rights museum.

Former Dallas City Council member Juanita Craft was a Dallas civil rights pioneer. She lived at 2618 Warren Avenue from 1950 until her death in 1985. She served on the city council in the 1970s.

John Scroggins, who runs the nearby South Dallas Cultural Center, said Craft was an activist at a time when bombings occurred in her neighborhood.

"And she survived all that and made a huge impact, so I think it's heroic," he said.

At the house, built in 1925, Craft entertained like-minded adults and neighborhood children. She promoted NAACP Youth Councils around the nation and at her home.

A Look Inside Dallas' Juanita Craft House

Former Dallas City Council member Diane Ragsdale said she first visited Craft's house at the age of 11 and became one of the "Craft Kids."

"This is where we were introduced to the civil rights movement. This is where she did much of her teaching because she was building future leaders. She was building for tomorrow," Ragsdale said. "Mrs. Craft never did have children. She said she adopted the entire world and indeed she did."

The city of Dallas was in the process of turning the house into a museum when a pipe burst last year and caused extensive damage. The walls of the house were stripped bare to remove much of the water damage.

The price to complete restoration and finish the museum is $1 million. The city had just $250,000 set aside for the project. Tuesday, the city council accepted a $500,000 National Park Service grant for African American civil rights programs.

Jennifer Scripps, the Dallas Director of Cultural Affairs, said the federal money would be a huge step forward in getting the work done with the quality it deserves.

"We are now working with private donors and groups in the city that also believe in this work to help close that fundraising gap," Scripps said.

Scroggins said plans call for restoring historic elements of the house and adding displays aimed at today's visitors.

"The idea is to mix technology and bring that in, but at the same time preserve history and have a great marrying of the two," Scroggins said.

Ragsdale said the Craft House must continue to be a place that promotes a better society and better living conditions for people of color.

"We want to make sure that Mrs. Craft's legacy is protected, that we continue to have the type of programming that will develop future leaders here," she said.

The federal money must be spent within two years, so work must get underway soon at the Juanita Craft House.

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