DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Her legacy stands tall in Dallas: the first black woman to vote in Dallas County; she led the cause to desegregate schools and the State Fair of Texas. A tireless advocate for equal rights.
More than 30 years after her passing, Juanita Craft remains one of the most important civil rights leaders in Texas history.
Diane Ragsdale says her legacy lives on in more than just her name.
“Her legacy was really about civil rights,” Ragsdale says. Ragsdale says Craft inspired her life.
“I think she taught me, when you get up in the morning you need to think about what you can do to make a difference in the lives of others – today and every day. That is the key thing,” Ragsdale says.
Ragsdale is a civil rights activist today, who served on the Dallas City Council from 1984-1991. She grew up learning from Juanita Craft, spending many days at her home on Warren Avenue when she was a young girl.
“She trained youth to address that which is unjust. She trained youth to be activists,” Ragsdale recalls.
At 11-years-old, Ragsdale and her sister would go to NAACP meetings every Saturday and walk door-to-door with adult members, registering people to vote.
Juanita Craft organized 182 chapters of the NAACP Youth Council throughout the state of Texas.
“If we really want to keep her legacy alive, that’s what we need to do,” Ragsdale says, adding it is important to not just remember Juanita Craft’s name, but do the work.
“My journey was started under her leadership toward justice and as an activist. I am who I am as an activist – concerned about the civil rights movement and the human rights movement – I am who I am in a significant part because of Mrs. Juanita Craft,” Diane Ragsdale says.
Juanita Craft died in 1985, at age 83.
The home where she lived for 50 years is a Dallas landmark but it is in great need of repair. A pipe burst last year, flooding the property.