Dallas awarded $50,000 to preserve African American civil rights history

Hall of Negro Life 3
From left: Thurgood Marshall and A. Maceo Smith – Photo by R.C. Hickman courtesy of the UT-Austin Center for American History


Special to The Dallas Examiner


The city of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture received a $50,000 grant from the National Park Service to research and interpret the historic legacy of the Hall of Negro Life from the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebration.

“This $50,000 federal grant is a significant win for the city of Dallas, for Fair Park and for the preservation of history,” said Mayor Eric Johnson. “With this funding, our local historians and scholars can help reveal and share a more complete history of the struggle for civil rights in our city. I am eager to see this project completed, and I am grateful to all those who are making this effort possible.”

Efforts from the NPS African American Civil Rights History Grant program will document evidence from local historians as well as from individuals who lived through and experienced the Civil Rights Movement.

“I am so excited that our city was chosen as a recipient of federal grant dollars at Fair Park,” said Council Member Adam Bazaldua. “This $50,000 grant marks the second time in less than 12 months that the city of Dallas’s contribution to African American History has been highlighted and supported on a national level. This funding from our country’s National Park Service will certainly jump start efforts to educate our community about the Hall of Negro Life, and it is a direct recommendation of the Task Force that examined how we tell our history. Better interpretation of important stories like this one – about the legacy of the 1936 Hall of Negro Life – will help tell a fuller history of Dallas, and specifically Fair Park.”

After witnessing African American leaders’ resiliency in fighting for representation and socioeconomic improvements, the Hall of Negro Life was constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial at Fair Park. Black groups, such as the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce pushed to obtain federal funding for the historic project. The chamber’s leader, A. Maceo Smith, a high school principal, became the assistant general manager of the Hall of Negro Life. A formal dedication was held on June 19, 1936.

With halls lined with paintings of African American life in Texas by Artist Aaron Douglas, the building housed six Black historic exhibits that highlighted the Black experience regarding education, medical progress, business and industry and art. In all, 32 states and the District of Columbia contributed to the program.

Even with this success, the program was deconstructed a year after its opening. There are conflicting information about the reason for its deconstruction, contents and significance at Fair Park.

“Since 2017, Dallas has worked to address the ways we share important pieces of our local history – including the Hall of Negro Life,” said Arts and Culture Director Jennifer Scripps. “We are so grateful to our partners on this project and are eager to begin this work in earnest thanks to this Federal grant funding.”

This grant-funded project will also be used to uncover information about African American history and the events surrounding the Civil Rights Movement in Dallas. Inspire Art Dallas will provide archival research. Fair Park First will provide recording space for telling these historical stories. This project is expected to be completed by fall 2023.



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