Mural reveals Fair Park’s role in Juneteenth’s history

By |Published On: June 20, 2023|Categories: South Dallas, South Dallas|

When Artist J.D. Moore was selected to be part of the  Absolute Equality – Juneteenth Mural Project commemorating Juneteenth, he knew he wanted to focus on South Dallas – “specifically Fair Park.”

Moore, 31, is one of six selected artists around the country participating in the national project which features large scale murals in Galveston, Shreveport, Houston, Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. 

J.D. Moore poses in front of the Absolute Equality-Juneteenth Mural he created at the South Dallas Cultural Center, unveiled on Monday, June 19, 2023. “I’m very elated to contribute this piece of art to this center,” Moore says. He stands in front of the last section of the mural, which is the depiction of actual Black Union soldiers. Photo by Jeffrey Ruiz

“Fair Park has a lot of historical significance,” Moore says as he describes the panoramic painting in the courtyard of the South Dallas Cultural Center.  That’s why he chose to paint a chronological display of Fair Park’s role in promoting the understanding and awareness of Juneteenth.

Moore points to the heart of his mural — light emanating from a building representing The Hall of Negro Life. The federally-funded exhibition featured at the Texas Centennial in 1936 in Fair Park was one of the first in the country to honor the history of African-Americans in the United States. Moore says the exhibit celebrating Black culture sparked Juneteenth celebrations across North Texas.

The Absolute Equality-Juneteenth Mural of Dallas decorates the South Dallas Cultural Center courtyard on Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Photo by Sujata Dand

Despite its success, the Hall of Negro Life was deconstructed one year after its opening. This is one of the reasons Moore wanted to include the building in his mural. 

“I kind of consider myself somewhat of a historian,” Moore says. “I think that it’s important to embody the influences of past events in the present day.” 

Moore worries that as time passes, the significance of important moments can be lost. 

“For a lot of people, Juneteenth is just a day off of work or an excuse to have a pool party.  But there was great sacrifice that went into where we are today.”

Moore captures this sentiment in his mural showcasing the Black soldiers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. The colors of the Pan-African flag fly in the background.

“The gaze of these soldiers is meant to show the struggle,” Moore says. “What they could be saying, what they could be thinking while they’re looking at you. I think that it’s important to give them that recognition.”

Moore also includes Juanita Craft in silhouette fighting alongside other women for equality. Craft, a civil rights activist, pushed to desegregate the State Fair of Texas. She spearheaded a boycott against the State Fair, which since 1936 had only allowed Black students to attend the fair on “Negro Achievement Day.”  The Juanita Craft Civil Rights House and Museum recently reopened in South Dallas and offers a more complete history of Craft’s life and Civil Rights work.  

J.D. Moore gazes at the mural with the last attendee of the mural dedication event in the blazing heat at the South Dallas Cultural Center on Monday, June 19, 2023. The first sections of the mural were stylized after the African American artist Aaron Douglass. Photo by Jeffrey Ruiz

“It was a very great learning experience for me to understand that the fairgrounds weren’t built for the State Fair, which is how I’ve always associated Fair Park, but that it has this history of Texas. These figures like Juanita Craft played a huge role in shaping the fair as I know it today. So that’s kind of what I hope to have people walk away with.”

Moore lives in Fort Worth, but has a tattoo studio in Dallas. He’s been an artist since 2013. The official unveiling of his mural was yesterday evening, on Juneteenth, at the South Dallas Cultural Center.

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About the Author: Sujata Dand

Sujata Dand is an award-winning journalist who is energized by change brought in communities in response to news stories. She lives in and has spent most of her reporting career in Dallas, with ample experience covering health care, education and public policy. “I think it’s important to elevate voices that are often ignored,” Dand says. “For me, that means meeting the people in our communities. We need to see people and listen to them. It’s often a huge act of courage for people to openly share their lives. So, I feel an enormous responsibility in making sure my stories are authentic and fair.” Dand worked at KERA for almost 10 years, where she produced several television documentaries, including “Life in the Balance: The Health Care Crisis in Texas” and “High School: The Best and the Rest.” She also headed the multimedia project “Boyfriends,” which examined the complex personal and cultural factors that contribute to the way adolescent girls form and maintain relationships. Her work has garnered several local Emmys and national awards including a Gracie for best reality program. Prior to her work with KERA, Sujata was a reporter and anchor at the CBS affiliate in Wichita Falls, Texas. She has worked as a freelance reporter for NPR and Dallas Morning News. Dand is a graduate of Trinity University in San Antonio.

Official Title:

Senior Editor and Reporter