Call to Action

All Exhibits

Role of Dallas, continued

Mexican-American Sit-In

Dallas County Community Action Committee Inc. (DCCAC) was the local nonprofit corporation that administered the federal government’s 1964 War on Poverty programs. Funded in part by grants from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, DCCAC provided educational assistance to students in underserved areas. In 1972, DCCAC anticipated budget cuts and froze $19,000 of the education funds. On February 29, 1972, a group of Mexican-American college students stormed the DCCAC offices in protest. Led by Robert Arredondo, the students commandeered the administrative offices and staged a sit-in. Acting DCCAC Director Buck Johnson met with Arredondo, who outlined the plight of the students dependent on those funds for tuition and support. As Johnson explained the organization's position, Arredondo threatened to nail the office door shut—with Johnson inside. The sit-in continued as the two men negotiated a workable solution. Eventually, the freeze was lifted.

Gay Rights Movement

“Gay Power” took the spotlight in the 1970s, directing attention to another group seeking acceptance and equal treatment. Continuing to this day, the gay rights movement demands changes in public perception as well as changes in the law to provide the same rights to homosexual persons as are provided to others. The Stonewall Riots of June 1969, a three-day uprising in Manhattan's Greenwich Village following a police raid targeting gays, is widely considered a cornerstone of the movement. Remembering the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the gay community in Dallas staged a peaceful parade through downtown.

Kent State Killings

The fatal shooting of four Kent State University anti-war protestors by Ohio National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970, sent shock waves through campuses around the country, including Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas. With four black cardboard “coffins” lined up in front of Dallas Hall and campus flags at half-mast, approximately 300 students gathered in the university quad on May 5 to protest the Kent State student killings. After a four-minute silence, students sat on the grass and sidewalks to listen to a series of speakers over an impromptu public address system set up on the steps of Dallas Hall. Speakers included SMU professor Paul T. Hayne, Dallas Legal Services Project Director Ed Polk, and Gregg Calvert, former national secretary of the Students for a Democratic Society. Speakers expressed anger over the deaths and spoke out against the Vietnam War. Hayne urged for open communication between students and the “silent majority.” The University of Texas at Arlington held a similar protest on the same day.

Demonstrations in Dealey Plaza

Demonstrations in Dealey Plaza
George Reid Collection

Since its dedication in the 1940s, Dealey Plaza has served Dallas as a symbolic focal point of the city. During the Vietnam War, demonstrations occurred in Dealey Plaza—some protesting the war and others in support of the military effort. The location was both visible and significant.

Dealey Plaza was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1993. Acknowledged as the birthplace of the city and county of Dallas, the land that would become Dealey Plaza was settled by John Neely Bryan in the 1840s. The plaza, as well as the adjacent triple underpass, was built in the 1930s during the fervor of the Texas Centennial and Roosevelt's New Deal, spearheaded by Dallas civic leader George Bannerman Dealey. After his death in 1946, the Dallas Park Board named the historic park Dealey Plaza in his honor and designated it “The Front Door to Dallas.” For many years, the three-acre park served as the major gateway to the city of Dallas from the west, and equally importantly, as a symbol of civic pride. In 1963, the focus suddenly changed when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Dealey Plaza was immediately associated with the tragic event—an association that continues today.