North Texas Daily

The Texas State Fair holds a dark, racist history that should not be ignored

The Texas State Fair holds a dark, racist history that should not be ignored

The Texas State Fair holds a dark, racist history that should not be ignored
October 26
18:27 2019

With the State Fair coming to a close this weekend, many Texans close down their stands and begin to anxiously await the return of the infamous fair for next fall.

However, most fairgoers don’t think about or know about the systematic racism ingrained within the fair and the extremely racist history behind it. 

The State Fair of Texas first opened in the late 1880s, attracting over 100,000 people daily at the end of the fair season. In 1920, the Ku Klux Klan started using the fairgrounds as a place to recruit new members and spread their racist ideology. In 1923, the day of October 24 was named Ku Klux Klan Day at the State Fair of Texas. 

On this designated day, over 160,000 people attended the fair, including a number of out-of-town visitors. With such a large audience, the Klan used this to hold the largest KKK initiation ever recorded. During the ceremony, about 800 women and 5,631 men officially joined the ranks of the group. 

To me, this event is quite frightening. Yes, it was about 100 years ago, but that racist and hate-filled ideology is still prevalent in a lot of American households today. They might not be holding KKK meetings, but they are still upholding and spreading racist beliefs and ideas.

In 1966, the Foundation for Community Empowerment report cites officials who shared research on what they said needed to be done so that white, middle-class families would be more comfortable attending the fair. The report states that “the solution for all of these conflicts, at least in terms of Fair Park’s location, is simple. All that is required is to eliminate the problem from sight. If the poor Negroes in their shacks cannot be seen, all the guilt feeling revealed above will disappear, or at least be removed from primary consideration.” 

After reading this, it got me thinking about the community around the fairgrounds. The fair does a good job at shielding fairgoer’s eyes from the impoverished communities surrounding the fair. Despite the above statement being made a little over 50 years ago, the State Fair has done exactly what it promised. Organizers bought parking lots, grabbed land and constructed fences. They pushed the idea of the impoverished ⁠— and predominantly black ⁠— communities out of sight and out of mind. 

In 2018, the fair brought in over 2 million patrons, earning millions of dollars in ticket sales. Despite this though, the fair doesn’t try to revitalize and help rejuvenate the surrounding community. People from all around Texas travel to go to the fair, but people who live right next to Big Tex cannot even afford to enter. The average price of a fair ticket is $18 per person, but that just covers the entrance fee. Paying for food and other attractions can easily add up to an additional $100 or more. The high prices keep out the families who live nearby that cannot afford to drop $200 or more on day trip. 

The fair should offer methods and ways to give back money to the communities that surround it and give them an equal opportunity to attend.

Offering scholarships for free tickets and coupons to residents in surrounding areas is a great way for the fair to start helping give back to the communities that they have neglected for decades. Instead of holding onto every penny earned in park revenue, the fair should donate some of its proceeds to support the local communities and residents that it often diminishes.

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Natalie Taylor

Natalie Taylor

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