“Protests Inside and Outside”: A History of Anti-Apartheid Protests in Dallas
Recalling her arduous battles for Dallas’ anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, former City Councilwoman Diane Ragsdale argued that this “uphill battle” for divestment required a fundamental relationship between policy-makers and activists. Before Dallasites could fully answer the question of what it means “to be human,” she insists that she and other reformers had to build a human infrastructure to support expanded notions of justice. “I’m really talking about the citizens,” Ragsdale explains. “I’m talking about the marches and rallies downtown” that were designed to push progressive public polices (Ragsdale). For Ragsdale and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, the divestment campaigns and white-paper policies depended upon the resistance efforts that arose from some of Dallas’ most marginalized residents and neglected public spaces. Remarkably, these protests not only shifted the city leaders’ stances on apartheid, but proved how a resilient coalition of low-income residents and communities of color remained as committed to winning their own freedom as that of South Africans. In a city defined by bureaucratic inertia and the ‘Dallas Way,’ Ragsdale simply concludes, “We had to use confrontation to accomplish much of it” (Ragsdale). Though admitting that “nothing come easy,” Ragsdale still proudly proclaims, “I’m a believer that protests inside and outside can lead to good public policy” (Ragsdale).
This analysis argues that the ‘human infrastructure’ of protests and rallies converged with the physical landscape and social networks of Dallas to create platforms for marginalized voices within the local anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s and 1980s. Sparked by minority leaders and citizens outside the city’s scope of recognition, these protests created a new arena for activists at the margins to demand dignity and bring their calls for equality into the city’s political mainstream. Even as City Council representatives like Al Lipscomb and Diane Ragsdale brought the voices of South Dallas into their demands for divestment, the activists and communities working outside these white-washed halls of power wove their own struggles with housing rights, police violence, and de-facto segregation into their anti-apartheid protests. Working inside and outside the city’s limited conceptions of justice, Dallas’ anti-apartheid protesters used the politics of recognition as a tool for public policy.
While considering these activists’ political and social exclusion from official power structures, this essay also draws on the city’s physical landscape of exclusion to examine how anti-apartheid rallies and movement figures emerged from communities on the margins. Examining the historic and social context that underpinned these protests, this research focuses on the ways that protesters used Dallas’ public spaces as both a reflection of their marginalization and a tool to erode these boundaries. In “Permitting Protest: Parsing the Fine Geography of Dissent in America,” scholars Don Mitchell and Lynn A. Staeheli provide a useful theoretical scope by challenging us to explore the “relationship between exclusion, location and politics in public space through the optic of resistance” (798). Coining the term “protest landscape,” Mitchell and Staeheli use “geographies of dissent” to analyze power structures and subversive communities within American urban realities (798). “The politics of public space is thus a politics of location,” the scholars suggest, explaining that “where voices are silenced makes a huge difference as to which voices are heard” (798). Considering protests as voices from the ‘outside,’ this essay centers on three sites of Dallas’ protest landscape to examine the region’s political exclusion, residents’ relationship to the anti-apartheid movement, and the events these activists used to demand South Africans’ liberation and their own. Ultimately, as Mitchell in “The End of Public Space,” protests and public arenas serve as “spaces for representation” (115).
Fair Park and the State Fair Protests
Arguably no other region in Dallas holds as weighty a combination of local history, social neglect, and activist potential as Fair Park. Known largely as the site of the annual Texas State Fair, this neighborhood has historically compromised approximately fifty acres of land in southeast Dallas and housed an ever-shifting demographic of residents, ranging from Dallas’ wealthy elite in the early 1900s to a predominately black and Hispanic population in recent years (Davies 13). Representing both the power and urban blight of South Dallas, Fair Park has served as the epicenter for debates over racial and socioeconomic exclusion for nearly a century. Since Fair Park’s residents are geographically caught in the fraught relationship between the State Fair and Dallas’ elite, this neglected zone historically has served as a staging ground for activist movements and contention. By analyzing Fair Park as the seismic center of the city’s ‘protest landscape,’ we can better examine the connections between the waves of civil rights rallies and anti-apartheid protests that shaped this contested zone.
In the 1950s and 60s, Fair Park and the State Fair of Texas functioned as an ideological battleground for African-American activists in Dallas as their struggle for integration and respectful recognition reflected the larger, city-wide need for racial equality. From its opening debut in 1886, the State of Fair of Texas seemed destined to serve as a racialized social emblem for decades, as Dallas businessmen and civic leaders fashioned an annual cultural event designed for the sole benefit of North Texas’ white population. Set in the backdrop of the Civil War’s aftermath and Reconstruction, Dallas’ first annual fair held little room for minority patrons who complicated Texas’ resurgent narrative of white supremacy. Until the 1950s, Dallas’ black population could enter the fairgrounds at any time of the two-week exposition, but were banned from the Fair’s amusement rides and restaurant facilities except on Colored People’s Day (Johnson n.p.). Few civic leaders openly challenged the policy until Juanita Craft, sponsor of Dallas’ NAACP Youth Chapter, led the State Fair protests of 1955. On Monday, October 17, 1955, Craft and dozens of Youth Council students blocked the fair’s entrance and urged the black fairgoers to boycott Colored People’s Day (Gillette n.p.). As the teenagers and older civil rights agitators picketed the fairgrounds for nearly sixteen hours, the activists had proven the State Fair’s potential as an amplified stage for protest and recognition among Dallas’ white power-brokers (Burrow 21 and 22). As a teenager canvassing her South Dallas neighborhood, Diane Ragsdale experienced Juanita Craft’s mentorship and recalls the empowerment she found through her NAACP Youth Council (Ragsdale). Years later, Ragsdale’s bold actions for divestment reflected upon the strong roots that Craft and others had already laid in this predominately black community. Participating in the State Fair’s civil rights protests as a young man, anti-apartheid activist Don Payton recalls how the boycott pressures and public attention of the picket line deeply alarmed the fairgoers and business administration alike (Payton). Over fifteen years later, the State Fair protests of the 1970s would use this prototype to decry apartheid and negotiate power through this contested public space.
By the end of Dallas’ anti-apartheid movement in the late 1980s, the State Fair had witnessed three different waves of protest, erupting in 1970, 1973, and 1986 respectively. However, these rallies emerged from Fair Park’s distinct protest landscape, as local pressures surrounding fair housing and property rights had kickstarted community organizing efforts long before Al Lipscomb organized the protests. During the late 1960s, Fair Park homeowners discovered that the city of Dallas had contracted with city planners to explore alternatives to the low-income, predominately black neighborhood bordering the fairgrounds (Davies 16). The city planners encouraged land acquisition, using the basis of eminent domain to remove the current property owners (16-17). In response to these plans, Fair Park’s residents formed the Fair Park Block Partnership in the spring of 1968 in a desperate effort to save their homes. Meanwhile, in 1969, Reverend Peter Johnson from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) moved to Dallas and, after opening a local SCLC office, began agitating for residents’ property rights in the Fair Park homes (Johnson). By the end of the year, Johnson and other community leaders agreed that the Fair Park Block Partnership would need to stage a non-violent protest, recognizing “that only personal intervention by Mayor Erik Jonsson would have any effect” (Davies 34). The homeowners’ coalition threatened to stage a demonstration on the fairgrounds on New Year’s Day, using disruption at the Cotton Bowl Parade as a bargaining chip to get a meeting with the mayor. After some midnight bargaining with Jonsson, the protest was eventually called off in exchange for his cooperation (34). Ultimately, while these activist measures failed to dissolve the city’s acquisition campaign, they represented the ongoing power of Fair Park as a staging ground for protest and a space for public recognition. Indeed, when asked about his role in the anti-apartheid protests, Johnson explains that his work with the Fair Park homeowners and involvement in the State Fair protests were intimately related. Recognizing the parallels between South Africans’ struggle for freedom and his own neighbors battle against displacement, he insists that these moments are “rooted in my mind and in my heart” (Johnson).
In October of 1970, the State Fair had once again emerged as a protest battleground, but this time as a rallying place for Dallas’ nascent anti-apartheid movement. On October 10, 1970, the State Fair’s administrators declared the fair’s opening day as “South Africa Day” and hosted a special ceremony for South African ambassador H.L.T. Taswell in honor of the occasion (Schwartz and Dallas Morning News 9A). The backlash from Dallas’ black community was immediate and scathing. Al Lipscomb’s first known protest against apartheid emerged from this public relations nightmare, as Lipscomb and other community leaders rallied Dallas’ black community to ensure that fair administrators would never reinstate South Africa Day (Swanson 1). The Fair had annually celebrated South Africa Day since 1967, although this seemed to be the first year to spark significant public protest. While it remains unclear if Lipscomb physically protested at the fair or organized a community response, several prominent organizations in Dallas’ black community crafted a collective statement to rebuke the fair owners. Offering a window into the movement’s early coalition-building, the statement includes signatures from prominent civil rights organizations like Dallas’ NAACP and SCLC office, as well as grassroots organizations like the Fair Park Block Partnership (Dallas Morning News 9A).
Although the State Fair ended its annual South Africa Day celebration in response to the 1970 protest, the controversial relationship between the fair and local activists was far from over. Considered one of the most effective direct action campaigns of Dallas’ anti-apartheid movement, the 1973 State Fair protests exemplified activists’ increasing ability to leverage this public space for their own purposes ranging from picketing to educational campaigns. As part of their ‘World Gateways Exposition’—the chosen theme for 1973—fair administrators had invited the South African government to feature a pavilion and educational exhibit in the fairgrounds, along with other international exhibitors. When word of the exhibit leaked out, Lipscomb and other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement wasted no time in protesting the move. Indeed, the exhibit’s opponents proved so vocal that the Dallas Morning News ran a column on the protest coalition and their hurried three-hour meeting on the Friday night before opening day to plan a direct action campaign. According to the article’s attendees list, the anti-apartheid movement had steadily expanded since the initial protest in 1970. While only a few representatives met directly with the fair’s executive leadership, the loose coalition now spanned beyond traditional civil rights groups to include organizations like the Urban League and the Social Action Committee of Southern Methodist University (Dallas Morning News 14). Although approximately thirty community members had planned to picket on opening day, participant Don Payton recalls that only a handful of these members actually showed up to protest on Saturday, October 6, 1973 (Payton). Payton felt like these low numbers weakened their persuasive abilities, but another protest participant Arthur Riggins recalls that the small band of picketers refused to be intimidated in their meeting with Robert Cullum, the president of the Fair Park Board and former president of the Dallas City Council. Pointing out the exhibit’s simplistic film about white supremacy and black Africans’ servant status, Riggins proclaimed, “It’s a lie and we’re not going to stand here and allow the lie to be made” (Riggins).
Later, Lipscomb, Payton, Riggins and a few other agitators met with Fair Park’s board of directors at the Old Baker Hotel, where the band of black activists gave an ultimatum to the directors (Riggins). Sitting across from white business magnates like R.L. Thornton Jr., Robert Cullum, and John Stemmons, the protest leaders felt the momentous irony of the occasion. “We went to this meeting with the ruling class,” Riggins laughs, “with the richer than rich” (Riggins). After they explained the UN’s stance on the South African government and current human rights violations, the coalition insisted that “South Africa and the pavilion has to go” or they would “put a picket line around the whole State Fair” (Riggins). Eventually, after some lengthy debate, the Fair Park board reached a compromise with the protesters by agreeing to let them picket the actual exhibit rather than block the fair’s outside traffic. In exchange for their peaceful cooperation, Lipscomb and the other leaders also pressured the board to bar the South African exhibit in the following years (Griffith 15B). Some of the community members like Bill Stoner of the African Liberation Support Committee advocated for a more confrontational approach, but many seemed reluctant to consider an inflammatory tactic, especially after the violent riot that erupted earlier in the year after the police shooting of a young Hispanic teenager, Santos Rodriguez (Griffith 15B). Ultimately, Riggins describes the compromises as a crucial success since he and the other protesters gave fairgoers educational materials about apartheid and largely blocked most visitors from entering the pavilions. Moreover, he explains that the real “victory was that South Africa pulled out of the State Fair and left Dallas” for all the following years (Riggins). The 1973 State Fair protests offer powerful imagery of working both ‘inside and outside’ boundaries, as advocates like Lipscomb, Payton, and Riggins brought a cause that the fair perceived as a “non-issue” into public spotlight (Wiley 202). Reaching unprecedented access to Dallas’ business and political elites, the protesters artfully used their mastery of a public space to expand the voice of Dallas anti-apartheid advocates and the black community.
As a final chapter in the history of the State Fair protests, Fair Park once again emerged as a protest landscape in the anti-apartheid movement, this time as the struggle for divestment intensified. On September 25, 1986, the Dallas City Council refused to pass economic sanctions against South African business after a narrow loss of 6-4. Rather than leave the defeated ordinance in the halls of the council chamber, anti-apartheid activists Marvin Crenshaw and Roy H. Williams vowed to lead a peaceful blockade of the State Fair with ‘stalled’ cars and picketers (Jacobson 1A). In the years following the last State Fair protests, Dallas’ anti-apartheid movement had gained increased prominence and coordination, making it a viable contender against the conservative rulings of the Dallas City Council. For example, William’s organization, The Rainbow Coalition Against Apartheid, served as a more effective umbrella organization than the temporary and loosely-formed bands of community leaders that had led the previous two protests in Fair Park. As the State Fair prepared for its infamous rivalry game between Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University, Williams claimed there could be no better time to impede traffic. “We never want a confrontation with the law,” insisted the activist, “but we are here to raise the consciousness of people about the 24 million people in South Africa” (qtd. in Bailon 25A). While Crenshaw and Lipscomb prepared for Saturday’s gameday protest, they launched a trial run on Friday, September 27, 1986 with just two stalled cars and roughly 40 picketers (Bailon 25A). Rather than play a purely reactive role, this year’s protestors showed evidenced of proactive collaboration, including a pre-march gathering at Fair Park’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center and a cadre of flamboyant signs reading slogans like “Apartheid Kills, Dallas Pays the Bills” and “Down with the Dallas City Council” (Bailon 25A). In addition, some picketers also carried signs centered on South Dallas’ ongoing human rights challenges, with posters reading “Responsible Economic Development in the Southern Quadrant?? When?!” While this synthesis of international and local advocacy had characterized Fair Park’s protest landscape throughout the anti-apartheid movement, the 1986 protests brought a new sense of urgency, as picketers handed out brochures on topics ranging from apartheid and divestment to South Dallas economic development and accessibility challenges on the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (Bailon 25A). Noting the synergy between the global and local pressures surrounding the protest, Lipscomb aptly explained that “Fair Park is a symbol—you’ve got all the glitter and splendor of Dallas here commemorating 150 years of freedom in Texas yet less than a block away is dire poverty” (qtd. in Bailon 25A). Through such intersectional perspectives, participants in the State Fair’s 1986 protests demonstrated how Dallas’ low-income and minority residents succeeded not only in advocating for the freedom of South Africans, but also in synthesizing these international campaigns with systematic inequalities that impacted their own communities. Moreover, by playing a proactive ‘sparring’ role with the Dallas City Council, these activists exemplified the movement’s power to occupy a more publicly recognized arena.
Churches, Temples, and Street Corners: Activism through Dallas’ Religious Spaces
Drawing outside voices and debates into community conversation, Dallas’ religious spaces served as another key site in the protest landscape of the anti-apartheid movement. While other scholars have extensively explored the role of black churches in the struggle, this essay considers the role of religious spaces as venues for anti-apartheid activism and social inclusion. Though brief, this analysis offers three short examples of protest events hosted in religious spaces and the way this environment shaped Dallasites’ relationship to the local anti-apartheid movement. While spaces like churches and temples may seem isolated from the movement’s political mainstream, this analysis conceptualizes these religious communities as public spaces that provided a broader platform for local and international activists to spread the movement against apartheid.
Serving as a staging ground for both civil rights and anti-apartheid activism, St. Luke Community United Methodist Church shaped Dallas’ protest landscape by offering its sanctuary as a haven for community meetings and guest speakers. The church, described as “one of the cradles of the civil rights movement in Dallas,” had long fostered a politically engaged congregation of black community members under the leadership of pastors like Reverend M.E. McMillan and his wife Eva McMillan (Tomsho 10 and Stovall 1). As the anti-apartheid movement gained ground in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the church’s new minister Reverend Zan Holmes also provided essential support for the struggle. Perhaps the most symbolic episode in St. Luke’s anti-apartheid advocacy was the church’s decision to host Reverend Allan Boesak when the South African religious leader came to Dallas in 1986. Speaking at St. Luke’s on September 14, Boesak used the space to host an awareness evening where he made parallels between South Africans’ political oppression and the structural inequalities that Dallas’ black residents had experienced (Tomsho 10). In addition to educating the congregation about South Africa’s state of events, local activist Marvin Crenshaw partnered with Boesak to deliver a special appeal for Dallas’ divestment campaign. Noting the socioeconomic and racial marginalization that most of the congregation experienced, one journalist explained, “Not a single one of them may ever come to city hall,” so the importance of this community gathering proved all the more important (Tomsho 10). By using St. Luke as a gathering place for awareness-building and divestment organizing, international activists like Boesak and local figures like Crenshaw demonstrated the importance of religious spaces in reaching Dallas’ black community.
In addition to the city’s predominately black congregations, other religious spaces proved crucial to hosting speakers and community forums during the anti-apartheid movement. It is important to note that not all anti-apartheid speakers were confined to religious platforms, as demonstrated by Bill Sutherland’s guest visit at both El Centro Community College and Southern Methodist University, where this representative of the American Friends Service Committee spoke alongside Dallas’ Anti-Apartheid Coalition on November 1, 1982 (“Press Release”). However, many of the most prominent speakers and activists of the anti-apartheid movement found that religious congregations often provided the best space and opportunities for collaboration. Perhaps the most well known example of this activism among Dallas’ white congregations was the anti-apartheid event hosted by Temple Emanu-El on March 4, 1985. Called “Cry, South Africa: A Forum on Apartheid,” the community gathering featured guest speaker Duminsani Kumalo, an internationally renowned anti-apartheid figure and director of the American Committee on Africa (Timms 13A). This large Jewish congregation had historically held a progressive stance on civil rights and the temple provided an ideal forum for the nearly 200 Dallasites who gathered to hear Kumalo. The South African activist not only used the forum to advocate for a national policy on economic sanctions but also opened the event to local workshops on divestment tactics and ethics (Parmley 47A). Hosted by the Greater Dallas Community of Churches and the Jewish Federation of Dallas, this interfaith alliance also represented the growing ability of anti-apartheid activists to leverage religious spaces and interdenominational platforms to bring ‘outsiders’ voices into the city’s political mainstream.
As a closing example of Dallas protests among religious communities, local leaders of the anti-apartheid movement used both civic and religious appeals to rally the only known ‘counterprotest’ in the history of the city’s anti-apartheid movement. While activists like Ragsdale and Lipscomb had traditionally relied on religious spaces to host their community gatherings, this protest represented the anti-apartheid movement’s increasingly ‘offensive’ tactics as protestors took parishioners to the streets and used public space to leverage power. In August of 1985, Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell had taken several local pastors, including Reverend Don George of Calvary Temple in Irving, to visit South Africa. Upon their return, Falwell sparked widespread outrage by labeling South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a ‘phony’ and insisting upon the South African government’s plan to gradually end apartheid (Swanson 1A). A few weeks later, as Falwell organized an anti-pornography campaign in Dallas, local anti-apartheid leaders seized the chance to contest Falwell’s conservative stance and challenge the Christian Right’s foothold in Dallas. On September 3, 1985, as roughly 10,000 demonstrators assembled near Cole Park and Central Expressway for Falwell’s anti-pornography campaign, approximately 400 anti-apartheid protesters staged a counter campaign on the same street corner. Mobilized by a coalition known as the Concerned Black Clergy and Laity of Dallas, the NAACP, and Crenshaw’s group Citizens Against Apartheid, the anti-apartheid protestors followed council members Diane Ragsdale and Al Lipscomb as they peacefully demanded public awareness (Jacobson 15A). While the two opposing sides remained respectful, a journalist noted the way that the anti-apartheid activists appealed to shared Christian values and the danger of moral hypocrisy through their campaign signs and rhetoric (Jacobson 15A). Ultimately, the counterprotest highlighted the anti-apartheid movement’s growing power, as community leaders like Crenshaw and Ragsdale harnessed the support of local religious communities to move their campaign into public spaces and contest the dominant narrative about South Africa.
Rallies at Griggs Park and City Hall
Offering a final example of the politics of recognition, Dallas’ anti-apartheid movement negotiated a gradual transition from marginalized public spaces in predominately black neighborhoods to more established public arenas by the movement’s end in the late 1980s. Launched in 1985, two separate anti-apartheid rallies provide a powerful case study of exclusion, public space, and the expanding visibility of the movement’s struggle against apartheid.
On June 22, 1985, the community surrounding Griggs Park witnessed one of the most memorable events within Dallas’ anti-apartheid campaign, the city-wide “Free South Africa Day.” While the event featured many familiar faces including Diane Ragsdale and Al Lipscomb of the Dallas City Council and Marvin Crenshaw with Citizens Against Apartheid, it also hosted some newer players including an organization known as the Southern Africa Committee Against Apartheid, as well as recently elected Dallas County Commissioner, John Wiley Price. Most importantly, the rally highlighted keynote speaker Ben Mokoena, a representative of the African National Congress (ANC) forced into exile by the South African government. During his U.S. speaking tour, Mokoena had agreed to come to Dallas for the NAACP’s workshop on South Africa, thus creating an ideal opportunity for event collaboration (Nogami 41A). As approximately 200 community members crowded into the park, Mokoena presented the continued battle for economic sanctions against South Africa and Ragsdale offered a following speech to demand divestment measures from the Dallas City Council (Nogami 41A).
Promoted as both a rally and a festival, the awareness day not only symbolized the growing strength of the anti-apartheid protestors, but the increasing collaboration and visibility of their cause. One of the surviving rally flyers offers key insights into the movement’s development since the first Fair Park protests of the early 1970s. After a front page featuring the rally’s sponsors and supportive city officials, the flyer’s backside offers a concise summary of U.S. economic ties to South Africa and local efforts to divest the City of Dallas’ pension funds. Moreover, the leaflet also connects South Africans’ freedom struggle to the continued structural inequalities and violence that confronted Dallas’ black residents. Beyond the city’s refusal to divest, the flyer argues, “There is plenty of other evidence of racism in Dallas” (“Free South Afrika Day: Rally and Festival”). For example, the flyer cites police brutality against minorities as a focal point for reform and decries the recent killing of Russ Austin Granderson, an unarmed man shot seven times by the Dallas police. The flyer also protests the displacement of Griggs Park’s low-income residents, as the City of Dallas planned to install a 20-story office building that would essentially destroy the neighborhood (“Free South Afrika Day: Rally and Festival”). Located just north of downtown, Griggs Park was created in 1915 as a segregated public park for African Americans in a neighborhood that freed slaves established after the Civil War (Simek n.p). Reminiscent of its earlier battles with the Fair Park homeowners, the City of Dallas now made plans to displace the predominately black neighborhood that had emerged around this marginalized public space. As the flyer urged residents to “Protest against racism, from South Africa to Dallas,” the city’s anti-apartheid leaders demonstrated a masterful understanding of the movement’s future (“Free South Afrika Day: Rally and Festival”). Even as local communities struggled to save their public spaces and sites of advocacy, the movement would need a cohesive message to incorporate the struggles of Dallas’ black residents. Representing a larger metaphor of geographic and political exclusion, the Free South Africa Day at Griggs Park showed the movement’s growth as an interconnected struggle that wove together demands for equality abroad and at home.
Lastly, the city’s final anti-apartheid rally further represents the development of this local movement, as crowds assembled on October 18, 1985 for ‘The Rally Against Apartheid’ (Dallas Morning News). Much like the Griggs Park gathering earlier in the year, the rally demonstrated Dallas activists’ proactive stance on apartheid, in contrast to their largely reactive role in the State Fair protests. “There is no doubt that support is increasing,” explained the rally’s organizer, Marvin Crenshaw. “At first there was lots of apathy. But now people are coming on board” (qtd. in Dallas Morning News). Moreover, the rally’s location at the City Hall Plaza marked a turning point in the movement, as activists transitioned from marginalized public spaces like Fair Park and Griggs Park to the very center of Dallas’ political landscape. Tragically, even as Fair Park’s homeowners failed to forestall the city’s encroachment and the Griggs Park residents eventually lost their historic homes to business development and the gentrification of Uptown, the rally symbolized a transition from the spatial realities of the protest landscape to the channels of public policy. As community organizing and protests alone failed to change the city’s divestment policies or save the activists’ own neighborhoods, protestors worked to fill an increasingly collaborative role in public policy reforms. Ultimately, Dallas’ anti-apartheid campaigns shifted the social and political boundaries of the city, as protestors brought their activism to new public spaces like City Hall and black leaders like Lipscomb and Ragsdale fostered new inroads into city power and government leadership.
As demonstrated by the Fair Park protests, activism in religious spaces, and rallies at Griggs Park and City Hall, Dallas’s history of anti-apartheid activism arose from a remarkable protest landscape rooted in the resistance of everyday men and women. Interweaving their own struggles with housing rights, police violence, and political representation into the anti-apartheid campaigns, Dallas’ black activists demonstrated a resilient commitment to bringing excluded voices and outsiders’ causes into public recognition. “A lot of these protests were not solutions in themselves but steps along the process, that was the solution,” argues Arthur Riggins. “America at that time needed to know that the masses of people were not going to tolerate the kind of actions and kind of leadership that had guided America anymore” (Riggins). Ultimately, Riggins concludes that the “coalition of the masses of people is the key to making changes in society… If you oppress a people, they eventually going to resist” (Riggins). Working inside and outside the boundaries of possibility, Dallas’ anti-apartheid protestors used the politics of recognition to bring their message from the State Fair’s midway and church pulpits to the Dallas City Council and the halls of public power. In a landscape defined by inequality, the local anti-apartheid movement drew voices from the margins to demand dignity from Johannesburg to South Dallas.
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