Dallas History

Black Dallas Since 1842

A Concise History of Black Dallas

1842

The settlement of Dallas County begins with construction of the first cabin. The families of John Beeman and Captain Mabel Gilbert arrive. Captain Gilbert brings a Negro named Smith.

1853

In Dallas County’s first legal execution, a slave named Jane Elkins is hanged for murdering a white man named Wisdom. Various accounts suggest Wisdom had raped her in his home in Farmers Branch.

1859

There are 1,080 slaves in Dallas County.

1860

A fire destroys most of the downtown business district. Three Negroes are hanged on the banks of the Trinity near the site of the present Triple Underpass.

1861

Dallas County votes 741 to 237 in favor of secession and contributes to the Confederacy $5,000 dollars in gold from the county treasury.

June 8, 1861

War is declared.

1864

With the war going badly, long wagon trains laden with cotton begin rolling from Louisiana to the presumed safety of Dallas.

1865

The war ends. Negroes in large numbers are attracted to Dallas by the relative prosperity of the community. Freedman’s towns spring up. Some whites fear disenfranchisement if the county becomes “Africanized.” Police patrols are organized to ensure order in the Negro population.

1864

Mount Pisgah Baptist Church is founded in Upper White Rock. (It is now based in Richardson.)

1867

By military order, all Democrats in Texas, including the governor, are removed from office as impediments to Reconstruction.

1868

Dallas County holds its first election under Reconstruction. Whites who do not support Negro suffrage are barred from voting.

April 1868

The Ku Klux Klan first appears.

1869

Anthony Banning Norton, publisher of The Union Intelligencer, opens a school for the Negro children of Dallas with his wife, Maria. Local whites disparage the Nortons as “blue-bellied Yankees.”

1870

The Negro population of Dallas County climbs to 2,109.

1876

A Negro rapist is hanged from the Texas and Pacific Railroad Bridge over the Trinity River bottoms.

1878

Union Bethel School opens for Negroes.

1880

Negro population is 4,947. Term “colored” comes into use.

1884

The public school system of Dallas is organized. Sixteen white and six colored teachers conduct classes in six frame school buildings located around Dallas: four schools for whites and two for colored children.

1886

Dr. George F. Smith becomes the city’s first colored physician, with offices at 644 Main St., and Dallas gets its first colored attorney, Joseph E. Wiley.

1889

Physician and surgeon John W. Anderson arrives in Dallas and opens his office al 816 Main St. He will become the most prominent Negro in Dallas, owning vast amounts of downtown property, as well as extensive Dallas County real estate.

1890

Negro population is 11,177. Dr. Benjamin R. Bluitt arrives in Dallas and soon after builds the city’s first Negro-owned-and-operated sanitarium. William M. Sanford and Sandy Jones open the Black Elephant Varieties Theater at 76 Commerce St., popularly called the “devil’s rest spot on earth.”

1891

The Southwestern Baptist newspaper is published by Reverend E.W.D. Isaac, who is also the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church.

June 20, 1893

Three thousand colored people celebrate their Emancipation Day at the State Fair grounds.

1896

Dock Rowen becomes Dallas’ first Negro money lender. Rowen also operates a successful insurance company, grocery, and meat market. Dr. M.C. Cooper is Dallas’ first colored dentist.

1900

Negro population is 13,646.

June 29, 1900

The Colored State Teachers Association holds its 16th annual session in Sherman. A resolution condemning “Rag Time” music in public schools is adopted by the teachers.

December 28, 1900

White and colored female county jail prisoners are put in separate cells after the white women submit lengthy petitions protesting jail integration.

January 4, 1901

A grand ball is given by the Ku Klux Klan at Turners Hall.

October 7, 1901

Featured guest at the State Fair’s Colored Peoples Day is William H. Council, president of Alabama Colored Agricultural and Mechanical College.

July 4, 1091

Joseph E. Wiley, a Negro lawyer and Realtor, organizes and promotes a Colored Fair and Tri-Centennial Exposition. It runs through August.

June 19, 1902

The Emancipation Day parade includes mounted police, a drum corps called The Dallas Express Zouaves, a Fort Worth band, and The Happy Town Girls Minstrels.

October 8, 1902

Reverend Dr. A.R. Griggs gives the annual address at Colored Peoples Day at the State Fair. Griggs tells colored people to “be something, do something, get something, give something, keep something, and the world will respect you and God will save you.”

December 19, 1903

A party of Colored Baptist Missionaries from Cape Town Colony. South Africa, conducts a religious mass meeting at New Hope Baptist Church.

June 20, 1904

Several thousand people celebrate Emancipation Day in Fort Worth, arriving by train from as far away as Louisiana.

1905

Dr. Ollie Bryan, the first Negro woman to practice dentistry in Dallas, opens her office at 115 Boll St.

1906

Railroad owner and state Republican party leader Capt. E.H.R. Green meets in Dallas with William (Goose Neck Bill) McDonald, a Negro leader, and others to form the Reorganized Republican Party of Texas.

September 25, 1906

Bob Cole and Billy Johnson, well-known vaudevillians, present “The Shoo Fly Regiment” at the Dallas Opera House. It is billed as the first real American Negro play.

October 29, 1906

The reorganized Republicans hold a rally at the corner of Boll and Flora streets to appeal to the Negro voters.

January 2, 1907

Two Negro boys, each about 18 years of age, are fined $ I00 for disturbing the peace, after they allegedly refused to move from a narrow sidewalk, forcing a white woman to step off into the mud.

October 22, 1909

Soldiers are dispatched from Dallas to guard the peace in Greenville, Texas, where a white mob has attacked the Hunt County jail in an attempt to lynch four Negro inmates.

1910

Negro population is 20,828.

March 4, 1910

Allen Brooks, a Negro charged with criminal assault upon a white child, is lynched in the midst of his trial. The mob fights its way into the courtroom and takes Brooks from his armed guards, dragging him down Main Street, where he is hanged from a pole. Dallas whites celebrate the incident. Commemorative postcards are issued.

June 1911

J.A. Gilmore refuses to give up his seat in the whites-only compartment of a streetcar owned by the Dallas Consolidated Street Railway Company. He is assaulted by the conductor and an assistant, who throw Gilmore from the train. At trial, the court of civil appeals rules the railway lawfully enforced the Jim Crow law but applied too much force in the process. Gilmore is awarded $100.

October 3, 1912

Negro state Democrats meet in Dallas to endorse Woodrow Wilson for president and Thomas R. Marshall as vice president.

February 26, 1913

Fines of $50 are imposed on a white woman and her son and daughter by Judge Charles O’Donnell. All three are members of a theatrical troupe discovered by the police performing at a Negro theater in East Dallas.

May 4, 1915

Judge W.L. Crawford fines Cuney Warren, a Negro for grinning in court.

April 28, 1916

Grand Prairie homeowners and nearby residents issue written protest against establishment of a Negro school. “First because the proposed location is a strictly white community where Negroes have not been allowed to live [in] for the past 30 years. The lands are all owned by whites, and they feel that if a Negro school is located there and a Negro colony established that their real estate will be immediately depreciated by at least 50 percent….”

1919

Mayor Lawther establishes a Negro welfare board. Negroes ask for a tuberculosis hospital, street improvements, and sewer connections.

December 9, 1919

The Texas Colored Baseball Association is organized with teams in Beaumont, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Wichita Falls. Teams are later added in Shreveport, Galveston, and Mineral Wells.

1920

Negro population is 24,355. White members of the South Dallas improvement League propose a “color line” for the division of Negro and White residents of South Dallas.

January 9, 1921

Saint James A.M.E, Temple opens a new $50,000 church designed and built by William Sidney Pittman. America’s foremost Negro architect, Thad Else, opens the first local hotel in Freedman’s Town at 2115 Routh St. to be designed and built for Negroes by Negroes.

February 1923

The Infants Welfare and Milk Association establishes the first clinic especially for Negro babies and their mothers, as well as expectant mothers. The clinic is headed by colored nurses and doctors.

May 1925

An interracial committee survey finds housing conditions for Negroes in Dallas “shocking.”

May 21, 1925

A mob of 5,000 attacks the Dallas County jail in an attempt to lynch Lorenzo and Frank Noel, two Negroes indicted for murder and assault. Three men are shot and wounded by Dallas County officers in the course of dispersing the mob.

July 1926

A Dallas segregation ordinance is upheld by the Fifth District Court.

August 1927

A broom and mop factory, owned and operated by two blind Negroes, opens for business.

February 1928

Some white leaders oppose the bond election because it includes money for a Negro library. More than 10,000 Negro citizens pay poll tax.

March-April 1928

Plans are announced for a $175,000 Negro YMCA. Dallas Negroes raise $50,000, breaking a national YMCA fund-raising record.

May 1928

First two Negro Boy Scout troops are organized at El Bethel Baptist Church in Oak Cliff and St. Paul M.E. Church in North Dallas.

June 2, 1929

Scores of religious and civic lenders express indignation at Mayor J. Waddy Tate’s refusal to welcome 4,000 Negro Knights of Pythias to Fair Park Auditorium.

1930

Negro population is 47,879.

October 10, 1934

Father Max Murphy, a graduate of St. Peter’s School, becomes the first Negro priest to perform mass in the Dallas diocese. Cab Calloway and his New Cotton Club show appear at the Majestic Theatre, with midnight shows for white persons only.

October 15, 1934

Negro Day at the State Fair draws 53,380.

1936

A. Maceo Smith, Secretary of the Progressive Citizens League, urges Negroes to pay poll tax and push for a new high school and Negro policemen.

September 1937

At the urging of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the Dallas City Council agrees to hire Negro policemen.

1938

Segregation of white and Negro patients in the county hospital waiting rooms is announced for the first time. Benches and signs noting “Negro” and “white” are installed.

February 1938

Progressive Voters League (PVL) and the Negro Chamber of Commerce ask city for $1 million for low-income housing project for Negroes.

March 1938

PVL challenges school board on salary policies. Black high school teachers receive $93 a month. White teachers receive $ 160 a month.

September 28, 1938

George F. Porter, a Negro, is thrown down the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse for attempting to serve on a grand jury.

1939

PVL petitions Dallas City Council to hire Negro policemen.

September 1939

Doris “Dorie” Miller enlists in the Navy as a mess attendant, third class. Two years later, on Dec. 7, 1941, Miller will become one of the first heroes of World War II at Pearl Harbor when he comes out of the USS Arizona’s mess hall, mans a machine gun, and shoots down five attacking Japanese aircraft. He is later awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for bravery.

1940

Negro population is 61,605.

March 1941

Captain Harold Myers, flight surgeon of the Flying Cadet Examining Board, announces that Negro pilot applications will be accepted as well as whites.

May 1941

Bombs destroy apartments after blacks move in. Mayor Woodall Rogers promises action.

May 15, 1941

Bomb throwers strike again with an improvised explosive, believed to be made of dynamite, which destroys Mary Louise Wilson’s apartment at 3401 San Jacinto St. Crowds gather at 238 Hatcher St. in South Dallas after a group of whites warn Milton Chatman, a Negro, not to move into the residence. Chatman departs with his household goods.

May 16, 1941

U.S. Army recruiting center in Dallas inducts 200 Negro draftees.

June 12, 1941

The White Civic League threatens to resume bombing homes bought by Negroes in all-white South Dallas. The League warns Negroes to stay in West Dallas.

November 1941

A black-owned flower shop in South Dallas is destroyed by a bomb.

January 1942

Training begins for several hundred Negro air raid wardens.

June 3, 1942

The Dallas Morning News editorial supports placement of Negroes on grand juries.

September 19, 1942

John King becomes first Negro sealed on a Dallas grand jury.

November 1943

Nardis Sports Wear Inc. hires Negro women factory workers at same pay rate as whites.

November 24, 1943

Dorie Miller is killed aboard the aircraft carrier Liscomb Bay when it is sunk by enemy action in the South Pacific.

May 1944

The Dallas Morning News is asked by Fair Employment Commission to end industry practice of separating white or Negro-only help-wanted ads.

June 1944

U.S. Supreme Court bars whites-only primaries.

1946

Negro Achievement Day at State Fair draws 104,000 people.

March 25, 1947

Two Negro policemen, Lee G. Brotherton and Benjamin J. Thomas, begin patrolling in State Thomas area.

October 1947

Negroes are allowed two days at the State Fair instead of one. Black attendance is 167,000.

January 3, 1948

Penn State University with black stars Wallace Triplett and Dennie Hoggard plays in first integrated Cotton Bowl game against Southern Methodist University. Due to Jim Crow laws in Dallas, the Penn players could not stay in local hotels and had to shelter at a naval base 14 miles outside of the city.

December 1948

Police Chief Carl Hansson says limited use of Negro policemen has been successful. Hansson issues open invitation to blacks to join the police force.

April 1949

The Brooklyn Dodgers with Jackie Robinson play the Dallas Eagles at Burnett Stadium in Oak Cliff.

1950

The Dallas City Council, led by Roland Pells, proposes to solve the “Negro housing problem” by relocating 40,000 blacks to projects in the Trinity River Bottoms. Black leaders reject the idea. Dallas Negro Golf Association dedicates nation’s first Negro Golf Course at Elm Thicket, located at the present site of Love Field.

February 5, 1950

Home of Horace Boener is bombed when he moves into a white South Dallas neighborhood.

June 10, 1950

NAACP submits petition to mayor and Dallas City Council demanding a stop to the bombing of Negro homes and businesses in South Dallas. Whites respond with more bombings.

September 30, 1950

Heman Marion Sweatt enters UT Law School, ending official segregation.

August 25, 1951

Special grand jury indicts three white men, Claude Thomas Wright, Arthur Eugene Young, and Richard Russell Reader for a series of bombings of black homes and stores.

October 10, 1953

Dedication ceremonies are held for the new Negro middle class subdivision of Hamilton Park.

July 10, 1954

Seventy-five hundred people attend the national NAACP convention in Dallas. Nobel laureate Dr. Ralph Bunche gives closing address, stating, “Negroes will never accept anything less than their full rights.”

January 10, 1956

Segregation on buses and other interstate public travel facilities are declared unconstitutional.

October 1956

District Judge Dallas Blankenship dismisses suit seeking to force the Dallas Transit Company to remove its segregated seating signs in buses.

July 27, 1957

U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals orders immediate integration of Dallas public schools.

August 3, 1957

DISD asks Court of Appeals for a new hearing, claiming it will lose accreditation and State Education Foundation funding if it integrates.

April 11, 1959

Attorney C.B. Bunkley, the first Negro candidate for City Council, defeated by Nevelle E. McKinney. 34,360 to 13.411.

October 17, 1959

Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce declares it will not participate in State Fair activities as long as segregated days are maintained.

May 1960

Negroes stage sit-in at Sangers Tea Room lunch counter.

August 1960

Christian Defense and Benevolent Council raises $100,000 for attorney C.B. Bunkley to represent blacks involved in sit-ins.

September 17, 1960

Superintendent W.T. White says he expects some form of school integration in 1961. White announces he’ll unveil a “stair step” or “salt and pepper”’ plan.

October 1, 1960

Dallas attorneys W.J. Durham and C.B. Bunkley, together with Thurgood Marshall, rile a court challenge to White’s “salt and pepper” plan, claiming it is unfair to Negro children.

January 7, 1961

Mixed group of SMU students demonstrate against off-campus drug store for refusing to serve two black students.

April 6, 1961

Federal court orders DISD to desegregate with fall term.

June 3, 1961

Mrs. Earldean Simmons Robbins is first Negro woman to graduate from SMU School of Law.

July 1961

White group buys controlling interest in the previously black-owned Dallas Star Post newspaper, calling it the first integrated newspaper in the South.

August 2, 1961

Forty Dallas businesses peacefully remove all discriminatory signs, symbols, and practices, and extend food service to all customers regardless of race.

September 6, 1961

Eight public schools peacefully integrate. Eighteen Negro children enroll in previously all-while schools.

September 1962

Paula Elaine Jones, 17, becomes the first Negro freshman at SMU.

January 4, 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at a Poll Tax Rally attended by 4,000 at Fair Park Music Hall.

May 1963

Dallas Transit Company hires first two Negro drivers, William Sample and Charles Edward Wright.

May 28, 1964

Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes, pastor of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church, is elected president of the Dallas Pastors Association. He is first black president of the group.

June 3, 1964

Judge Blankenship orders civil rights demonstrators to stay out of the Picadilly Cafeteria in downtown Dallas.

June 12, 1964

Blankenship reversed. Blacks win right to picket Picadilly Cafeteria.

June 28, 1964

Picadilly announces it will serve Negroes when the Civil Rights Bill passes Congress.

July 10-14, 1964

Black and white civil rights demonstrators picket DISD administration building.

July 18, 1964

City Transportation Company says it will drop racial restrictions from its taxis.

June 1965

Three blacks appointed to city boards: Dr. William Flowers to Advisory Public Health Board; John H. Glenn and Rev. Caesar Clark to the City Plan Commission.

September 7, 1966

Twenty thousand delegates to the Black National Baptist Convention in Dallas are greeted by Gov. John Connally and Dallas Mayor Erik Jonsson.

January 7, 1967

Juanita Kraft is selected one of “Dallas 10 Most Outstanding Women” by the Dallas County YWCA.

February 20, 1967

C.A. Galloway becomes first Negro to join Dallas City Council. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Joe Moody.

April 1, 1967

World Heavyweight boxing champion Cassius Clay speaks at Bishop College.

January 1968

Linzy Cole, from James Madison High School, becomes the first black to play football in Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

February 5, 1968

Former City Councilman C.A. Galloway files to run for county commissioner.

February 15, 1968

SMU students picket a laundrymat at 5640 E. Mockingbird Ln. because of its “white only” sign. Owner Roy Hanson punches student leader Pat Cronan in the nose and sprays the picketers with cold water.

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis. Riots break out in 168 cities.

May 3, 1968

State Rep. Joseph Lockridge, the first African-American to represent Dallas County in the state legislature, is among 83 persons killed in a Braniff Airline crash in Dawson, Texas. He was returning to Dallas after giving a speech at Prairie View A&M College.

May 25, 1968

Dr. Paul Freeman, 33-year old black director of the San Francisco Community Music Center, is named associate conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for the 1968-69 season.

June 18, 1968

Rev. Zan Wesley Holmes Jr. of Dallas is elected to fill the unexpired tenure of the late Rep. Lockridge.

June 14, 1968

Black educator Irving Baker is appointed assistant to president Dr. Willis Tate at SMU. He will also serve as director of African-American studies. Both are firsts at SMU.

1970

The black population of Dallas is 210,342.

January 17, 1969

D.A. Stafford, 35, is named the first black captain in the Dallas Police Department.

June 6, 1970

Dr. Emerson Emory, one of three black psychiatrists in Texas, becomes the first black president of the Dallas Council of the United Service Organization, a United Fund Agency.

January 22, 1971

Survey finds at least 45 percent of apartment buildings in the Dallas area discriminate against minority groups in violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.

April 2, 1972

Joe Kirven. a black Republican appointed to the school board, says he does not favor busing to achieve social integration.

November 15, 1972

Southern Christian Leadership Conference officials and 100 supporters block traffic on Central Expressway and Forest Avenue to protest the shooting of seven young black men by Dallas police since Oct. 11.

November 16, 1972

Six blacks arrested for marching and refusing to obey police orders to leave the roadway following a protest march from South Dallas to Kennedy Square.

September 2, 1973

Dallas County judge W.L. ’”Lew” Sterrett releases a report that 11 percent of county employees are members of racial minorities. DISD figures show non-whites now make up 51.7 percent of total enrollment.

December 1, 1975

DISD announces that black student enrollment has increased 12 percent from 57.394 in 1971 to 64.543 in 1975. Number of black teachers declined 9 percent from 2,101 to 1,908. White student population decreased by 26,063, now composing 30.5 percent.

February 21, 1978

More than 40 black Dallas school bus drivers are fired when they refuse to make their runs for the second day in a protest over pay and working conditions.

November 2, 1979

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Porter denies a request to prohibit the KKK from marching through downtown Dallas. Porter says that while he finds the beliefs and activities of the Klan “repugnant” he is obligated to uphold the Klan’s constitutional right to march.

February 3, 1980

Political maverick Elsie Faye Higgins comes from behind to defeat Mabel White, the favorite of the business community, to win the District 6 City Council seat. The margin is 18 votes.

January 11, 1983

Dallas Housing Authority board of directors agrees to sell the Washington Place Public Housing complex to Baylor University Medical Center for $9 million over the objection of residents.

August 2, 1984

John Wiley Price is elected to the Dallas County Commissioner’s Court from District 3.

November 1984

Arsonists burn down the First Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, usually referred to as “Page’s Temple.”

November 1, 1986

Richard S. Knight Jr., an African-American, is appointed city manager by the Dallas City Council.

September 8, 1987

Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam addresses some 2,300 at the Dallas Convention Center. Farrakhan urges blacks to build an economic and political base to support themselves.

June 1, 1988

Dr. Marvin Edwards. an African-American, becomes new superintendent of DISD.

July 1, 1990

Members of a Dallas housing rights group take over seven government-owned homes in South Oak Cliff, charging the government and the Resolution Trust Corp. failed to make homes affordable to low- and moderate-income families.

March 10, 1992

Eddie Bernice Johnson is elected to Congress. The first African-American U.S. representative from Dallas, and the second black woman (after Barbara Jordan) elected to the House from Texas.

May 26, 1992

A memorial service is held to honor the slaves and freedmen buried in the Freedman’s Cemetery, which operated from 1861 to 1925.

November 1992

A census study shows Dallas has the nation’s second-fastest-growing black suburban population in the 1980s, after the Riverside-San Bernardino metropolitan area in California.

April 27, 1993

Former Dallas Cowboy tight end Jean S. Fugett Jr. assumes control of New York-based TLC Beatrice International Holdings Inc. valued at $1.5 billion-after the sudden death of his half-brother, Reginald Lewis. Beatrice is the nation’s largest black-owned company.

August 7, 1994

The National Association of Negro Musicians Diamond Anniversary Orchestra celebrates its 75th year with a concert at the Meyerson.

May 6, 1995

Ron Kirk is elected the city’s first African-American mayor. He took office June 5.

Related Content

Newsletter

Get a weekly recap in your inbox every Sunday of our best stories from the week plus a primer for the days ahead.

Find It

Search our directories for...

Restaurants

Restaurants

Bars

Bars

Events

Events

Attractions

Attractions

View All

View All

Comments