Black History in Dallas – City of Dallas Office of Historic Preservation

If you didn’t catch all of our posts for Black History Month this year, don’t worry! We’ve consolidated them here. African-American history in Dallas is a very large and fascinating topic. We know that we’ve barely scratched the surface this month. Feel free to leave us a comment and tell us which topics or buildings related to black history you would like us to cover in future posts!

Introduction (Feb. 2, 2018)
Click here to read a brief introduction to African-American history in Dallas.

Elm 2551 Knights of Pythias Bldg Under Renovation (1)

Knights of Pythias Temple (Feb. 6, 2018)

The Beaux Arts style Knights of Pythias Temple at 2551 Elm Street served as a social, professional, and cultural center for Dallas’ African-American community from its opening in 1916 until 1939. The temple hosted lectures, meetings, conventions, and dances, as well as housed the offices of black professionals in the area. The structure was designed by William Sidney Pittman, son-in-law of Booker T. Washington, and stands as one of the few remaining early 20th century commercial structures in Dallas that was designed by a black architect. Union Bankers Insurance Company occupied the building from 1959 until the late 1990s. After sitting vacant for nearly two decades, the building is now undergoing a complete renovation as a boutique hotel. Workers are in the process of removing the non-original white paint from the façade. We can’t wait to see the finished result (JA)! 

Main 1623 Wilson Building (1)

H.L. Green (Feb. 8, 2018)

H.L. Green, formerly located in the Wilson Building in Downtown Dallas, was the first department store downtown to desegregate their lunch counter. Although segregation was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954 as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Dallas – like many Southern cities of the time – stubbornly held on to their policies of racial exclusion well into the next decade. In 1960, civil rights activists across the country began to stage peaceful sit-ins, a form of non-violent grassroots protest. While sit-ins had happened before in Oklahoma City and Wichita in 1958, the tactic gained widespread attention during a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960. Dallas civil rights leaders such as Juanita Craft had already begun organizing protests at Dallas whites-only theaters in 1955 and, encouraged by the momentum of the Greensboro sit-in, began organizing members of the NAACP Dallas’ Youth Council to ramp up their efforts. Sit-ins, letter-writing campaigns, and protests at Dallas establishments such as HL Green, Titche-Goettinger, Neiman Marcus, the Majestic Theater, State Fair of Texas, public pools, and other Dallas businesses became more frequent. Many people had televisions in their homes by 1960 and could watch the protests unfold across the country, and also witness the sometimes-violent police response. Public support for the protesters and desegregation grew as a result, and the sit-ins were ultimately successful. The actions of the protesters across the country paved the way for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (JA).

Elm 2934 - Boyd Hotel

Boyd Hotel (Feb. 13, 2018)

The Boyd Hotel, built in 1911, is located in Deep Ellum just east of Downtown Dallas. The neighborhood became a hub for early jazz and blues musicians beginning in the 1920s and was one of Dallas’ first commercial districts for African-American and European immigrants. The eastern edge of Deep Ellum was not segregated, and African-Americans, whites, and people of other races and ethnicities often lived next door to each other. The Boyd Hotel was no exception, and both black and white musicians were welcome. Early blues and jazz greats such as Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, Bill Neely, and Blind Lemon Jefferson –the Father of Texas Blues – stayed here. In addition to the building’s importance within the context of Dallas’ early music history, it is also one of the oldest hotels in Dallas and one of the few remaining cast iron front buildings in the city (JA).

HD 102 - Bluitt_Pervin Hexter

Bluitt Sanitarium (Feb. 15, 2018)

Many residents who lived in Dallas during the era of Segregation spoke of a “color line” in Downtown Dallas, which defined the boundaries between the mixed-race Deep Ellum neighborhood and the more predominantly white Central Business District. While you will not find any mention of a “color line” in city ordinances from the period, researchers have verified its existence and have placed the western boundary somewhere between South Harwood Street and present-day Central Expressway. The Bluitt Sanitarium, the tan brick building located at 2034-38 Commerce Street, was built in 1904 and was the first medical clinic for African-Americans in Dallas. It is the only building known to have been built, owned, and operated by black professionals this close to the color line. The owner of the medical practice, Benjamin Bluitt, was the son of former slaves and moved to Dallas to practice medicine in the underserved black population here. Bluitt was bold and was the first African-American to advertise in white publications, and he regularly conducted business with whites during his thirty year career. Many of the physicians and medical professionals who worked at Bluitt Sanitarium became prominent leaders within the black community and filled a crucial gap in medical care in Dallas (JA).

Flora 2501 - Booker T Washington High School

Booker T. Washington High School (Feb. 22, 2018)

Located on the northern edge of downtown Dallas stands one of the preeminent African American Performing Arts schools in the country, Booker T. Washington High School. While the school was established in 1892 and has gone through several transformations, it wasn’t until 1922 that the school was moved to its current location to allow for the growing student body. Celebrating many “firsts,” Booker T was the first Dallas school to broadcast a live football game on the radio and television, and was the first African-American school in the southwest to start a chapter of the National Honor Society. It remains the oldest African-American school in Dallas and has had a number of world renowned students including Erykah Badu, Norah Jones, Edie Brickell, Roy Hargrove and Elizabeth Mitchell. Near the school you can also find the historic Moorland YMCA. Situated on Flora Street, the YMCA, and Flora Street itself, served as a cultural, political and economic center for African-Americans since the 1920s (MLP).

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.