NAACP Youth Council picket line, 1955 Texas State Fair
"Don't Sell Your Pride for a Segregated Ride"
by Kathryn Siefker, Associate Curator of Exhibition Content
In 1955, the Texas State Fair in Dallas was segregated, a tradition that dated back to 1889 when planners first set aside a day for African Americans to attend the fair. Then called Colored People's Day, it was discontinued in 1910 and renamed Negro Achievement Day in 1936.
A collaboration between the Negro Chamber of Commerce and the State Fair Board, Negro Achievement Day featured a parade decked out with floats and fair Queens, the presentation of the Most Distinguished Negro Citizen Award, and high school and college football games. The day drew African American visitors from all over the state.
In 1953, the fair announced that African Americans could attend the fair on any day, but could only fully participate in the fair's enjoyments on Negro Achievement Day. Juanita Craft, NAACP Youth Council advisor for the Dallas branch, spearheaded a movement to end discrimination at the fair so that any person of any race could participate on any day they chose. Craft and members of the Youth Council decided to stage a boycott of the fair to draw attention to discriminatory practices. Teenagers, equipped with signs proclaiming "TODAY IS NEGRO APPEASEMENT DAY AT THE FAIR," picketed the parade that began at the local black high school. In an interview given in 1974, Craft remembered, “Those 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.' 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."
When the parade reached the picket line at the entrance of the fair, participants turned and refused to enter. The picket line lasted throughout the day and into the night. While the Youth Council did not succeed in ending Negro Achievement Day, they were able to draw attention to the discrimination African Americans faced. The Youth Council was given an award by the NAACP for their well organized and peaceful demonstration. In later years, adults took over picketing the fair. Achievement Day (fair planners dropped the "Negro" in 1957) officially ended in 1961, followed by the full desegregation of the fair later in the '60s.
The boycott, and the majority of other civil rights activity in Dallas, was captured on film by photographer R. C. Hickman. Born in the East Texas town of Mineloa in 1922, Hickman moved to Dallas with his family in the 1930s. After attending Tillotson College in Austin, he served as an Army photographer in World War II, then returned to Dallas to work as a photographer for the Dallas Star Post. As the unofficial photographer of the African American community in Dallas in the 1950s, he captured pivotal moments in the city's civil rights history, including visits by Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.
Courtesy Hickman (R.C.) Photographic Archive, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Time Period: 1946 - 1970
This artifact is currently on view.