Dallas Heritage Village announces the opening of a new fall exhibit “Neighborhoods We Called Home,” which is a collaborative effort with the Dallas Jewish Historical Society, the Dallas Mexican American Historical League, and Remembering Black Dallas, Inc. The exhibit, which runs from September 1 through December 30, 2017, explores the historic neighborhoods of Dallas that served as strong, supportive communities for Jewish, Hispanic, and African-American Dallasites from the early 1900s and beyond.
Materials from the three co-sponsoring organizations will be installed in three corresponding structures at Dallas Heritage Village. The Jewish Historical Society will display materials in a Victorian house that the Village has dedicated to the presentation of Jewish history; the Dallas Mexican American Historical League’s materials will be featured in the railroad section house, as railroad work attracted many workers of Tejano or Mexican Heritage; and Remembering Black Dallas, Inc.’s materials will be exhibited in the Shotgun House, originally located in Dallas’ largest freedman’s town. All three organizations will also provide volunteers to staff their buildings during special events and field trip days.
In addition to the physical exhibits, which include stories and images of these historic Dallas neighborhoods, this project includes an interactive map of Dallas neighborhoods and their historic communities, created by Anita Palmer of GISetc: Educational Technology Consultants, as a donation to the project.
“This new exhibit will certainly be a highlight of the fall at Dallas Heritage Village and something the community will want to see,” added Evelyn Montgomery, curator, Dallas Heritage Village. “Our three collaborators have been hard at work on their respective exhibits, and it is very exciting to watch this come together. Additionally, the interactive map will link to all four organizations’ websites and provide a more comprehensive look at what life was like for these communities in the 1900s.”
Each collaborator has accumulated material by collecting oral histories and digitizing family memorabilia from Dallas citizens. Materials also include artistic renderings, images of costumed celebrations, fashions and artifacts. In each case they tell the stories of people who faced challenges regarding their places in Dallas society. They found strength through community, including institutions such as churches, stores and social organizations, and through community events and celebrations in neighborhood parks.
Remembering Black Dallas, Inc., is redeveloping the Shotgun house with 1930’s décor. The main entry living area will be transformed into an informational area to highlight local Dallas African-Americans. The other two rooms (kitchen and bedroom) will have artifacts and furniture to reflect the average urban family during that time.
“I hope this exhibit will be an ongoing project that will continue to evolve and be an educational and informative tool that will reinvent itself and grow,” said Dr. George Keaton, Jr., founder, Remembering Black Dallas, Inc. “For example, I would like to eventually see the addition of an outhouse to the shotgun house building as well as videos that show vintage footage of the African-American life and people in Dallas.”
The three temporary installations will complement Dallas Heritage Village’s existing exhibit on the history of the Cedars Neighborhood, Dallas’ first residential enclave. In its long history, the Cedars has been home to Dallas’ elite as well as mills, warehouses and the homes of their employees. It housed Dallas’ first Jewish community, a thriving Hispanic barrio, and a community of African-American Dallasites. Throughout that history, the city park where Dallas Heritage Village now stands was the center of life in the Cedars.
“This collaboration not only gives us a chance to showcase where we each fit into the history of Dallas, but it also helps us find more ways the three communities were and are connected,” said Debra Polsky, Executive Director, Dallas Jewish Historical Society. “Mexican-Americans succeeded Eastern European Jews in Goose Valley, black Dallasites owned much of the land on which the Orthodox Jewish community now resides, and all three ethnic groups suffered the effects of bigotry and flourished alongside the city of Dallas through its growth.”
This program was made possible in part with a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dallas Heritage Village is located at 1515 S. Harwood, Dallas, Texas 75215-1273. The exhibit is free with general admission: $9 for adults, $7 for seniors 65+ and $5 for children ages 4 through 12 years. Children under 4 and members of Dallas Heritage Village are admitted free of charge. For information call (214) 421-5141 or visit www.dallasheritagevillage.org.
“Dallas is a multicultural city, and Dallas Mexican American Historical League commends Dallas Heritage Village in developing a simultaneous opportunity to share those stories with the general public,” said Juanita Nañez, president, Dallas Mexican American Historical League. “What will be gained from this exhibit is not only learning of the uniqueness of the different cultures, but also seeing that there are more similarities than differences between all groups. These are the same stories of aspirations, hard work and allegiance to country shared by many different cultures across the U.S.”
Upcoming related events include a round table discussion on Dallas community history featuring Dr. George Keaton, Jr., Remembering Black Dallas, Inc.; Albert Gonzalez, Dallas Mexican American Historical League; and Debra Polsky, Dallas Jewish Historical Society, on Thursday, Oct. 19, 6:30 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. program (no admission required). Evelyn Montgomery, Ph.D., curator of Dallas Heritage Village, will serve as the moderator. Tours will immediately follow discussion. Additionally, a public scanning day to preserve images and documents held by private individuals will take place on Sunday, November 5, 12:30-3:30 p.m., in Browder Springs Hall. These images will be sent to the appropriate corresponding exhibit collaborator for historic preservation in their permanent collections.
The “Neighborhoods We Called Home” exhibit collaborators share their thoughts:
WHAT WERE NEIGHBORHOODS LIKE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN, JEWISH, AND HISPANIC PEOPLE IN DALLAS IN THE 1900S?
Remembering Black Dallas, Inc. – DR. GEORGE KEATON, JR., FOUNDER:
During this era, much like today, there were examples of African Americans that lived and existed in segregated neighborhoods, varying from low income to high income status. During the 1930s, the Great Depression brought new challenges to already difficult situations. Despite Dallas historically being a city of high Klan activity and influence, African Americans faced several constant struggles that included colored laws, segregation, unfair housing, job discrimination, poor health services, and lack of proper and unequal funding for public education. Dallas was affected by the Great Depression but did not suffer as badly as many other larger cities. The emerging oil boom of East Texas was helping Dallas become a financial district. Some key African-American leaders in Dallas included Juanita Craft, a civil rights pioneer and member of the Dallas City Council, who in 1955, organized a protest of the State Fair of Texas against its policy of admitting blacks only on “Negro Achievement Day.” A. Maceo Smith moved to Dallas and taught business courses in Dallas ISD; became editor of the Dallas Express; promoted black economic and political empowerment; and became the first executive secretary of the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce as well as deputy director of the Hall of Negro Life at the Texas Centennial Exposition.
HISPANIC NEIGHBORHOODS (BARRIOS):
Dallas Mexican American Historical League – JUANITA NAÑEZ, PRESIDENT:
From 1910-1917, the Mexican Revolution was in full force, and immigrants were fleeing to the U.S. for jobs and settling into different barrios (neighborhoods). The neighborhoods were places to connect, reminisce, dream and plan the future for next generations. The first and largest of the Mexican barrios, Little Mexico, consisted of ten city blocks bordered by McKinney Avenue, Akard Street, Griffin Street and Stand Pipe Hill on the northwest and the MKT railroad on the southwest. There were many mom and pop grocery stores, restaurants, some bakeries, tortilla and tamale factories, and stores. Weekend celebrations were held at Pike Park, and Sundays were for church followed by picnics or family dinners. Education was the key to the future, and many became first generation high-school and college graduates. Men began serving in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War, and women began working outside the home to fill the worker void left by the deployed soldiers. The Trinity River spilled over in The Great Flood of 1908, leading to new levees and borders connecting Dallas to West Dallas and Oak Cliff, where new, Mexican barrios developed. Approximately 19 other barrios formed throughout Dallas. Many community, civic, and business leaders emerged from these barrios.
Dallas Jewish Historical Society – DEBRA POLSKY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR:
By that time, although some still lived near or above their businesses, most of the earliest Jewish residents were living near their synagogues in the area called “The Cedars” on the streets around City Park. Newer immigrants lived more modestly in the area known as Goose Valley or North Dallas, and generally attended a more Orthodox congregation. By the 1920s, as the city of Dallas expanded, residential neighborhoods blossomed south of downtown. In the 1920s & 1930s City Park (the site of Dallas Heritage Village) was the center of the Jewish Dallas, with homes surrounding the park, the Columbian Club, the Jewish Community Center, Temple Emanu-El, and Congregation Shaareth Israel. Dallas residents, in general, and Jews, in particular, continued to move farther south to South Boulevard, Park Row and Forest Avenue (now ML King Boulevard). Blocks full of businesses, many Jewish-owned, opened in the 1920s and 1930s, mixed with many residential streets. Some lavish homes were built on South Boulevard and Park Row by established Jewish businessmen. It was South Dallas that continued to nurture and coalesce the various Jewish groups (German & Eastern European, Reform to Conservative to Orthodox), and became a real community.