Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Museum reopens, honoring Dallas’ first Black woman elected to school board

By Sujata Dand, Senior Editor and Reporter
Dallas, Texas | health care, education, public policy

May 26, 2023

South Dallas

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Constance Harris walks Dallas Free Press through the house museum preserving the legacy of her mother, Kathlyn Joy Gilliam, who was the first Black woman to be elected to the Dallas ISD board of trustees. The family home was nearly destroyed in a fire two years ago, but eight local funders contributed to ensure its restoration.
After two fires caused the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Museum to close down in 2020, the museum’s leadership board managed to restore the home with support from foundations and community members, Thursday, May 4, 2023. Photo by Keri Mitchell

The Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Museum recently reopened on Wendelkin Street in South Dallas. Honoring the legacy of Mrs. Kathlyn Joy Gilliam, the museum showcases the civil rights leader’s life story featuring original furnishings, photos, and artifacts in the home she lived in for 35 years. Furthering Gilliam’s vision for a quality education for boys and girls, the museum is also a learning center and includes a reading room and debate center for children.

Constance A. Harris, daughter of Mrs. Kathlyn Joy Gilliam and the president of the KJG Museum, points to a photo recreated by her aunt (left) and mother, Gilliam, (right) on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Photo by Keri Mitchell

Earlier this month, the museum hosted its first event for children. Former Texas State Representative Harryette Ehrhardt, Librarian Claudia DeShay, and Arts Educator Lio Hassan told stories as part of the  “Reading under the Elm” series. 

The Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Museum and Learning Center stands behind its sign and portrait of Gilliam, on Thursday, May 4, 2023. The KJG Museum has reopened and continues to further Gilliam’s activism work in South Dallas with various programs and learning opportunities for the community. Photo by Keri Mitchell

Gilliam was the first Black woman on the Dallas school board. She was elected in 1974 and served for 23 years. She was also the first Black board president in 1980.

A portrait of Mrs. Kathlyn Joy Gilliam is centered on the museum wall exhibit with photographs and news clips highlighting her efforts and work to become the first Black woman president of the school board trustee for DISD on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Photo by Keri Mitchell

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