The civil rights struggle of the 1950s had a champion in Christia Adair, NAACP leader from Houston. As a young woman in South Texas, she worked for woman suffrage, only to find that black women were still excluded from Texas primary elections. She continued to work for full suffrage and was one of the first black women to vote in a Democratic primary after the Supreme Court struck down Texas' white primary law in 1944. As executive secretary of the Houston NAACP for 12 years, she and others desegregated the Houston airport, public libraries, city buses, and department store dressing rooms. Despite official harassment, Adair and others rebuilt the Houston NAACP chapter, which grew to 10,000 members. In 1977, a Houston city park was named for her.
Written by Nancy Baker Jones
Read by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Christia Adair was one of the few African American suffragists in Texas, but when she tried to vote in the early 1920s, she discovered that, by law, Black people could not vote in primaries. To change this, she became an early member of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to fight for civil rights.
She was its executive secretary when the group brought suit to end the White Primary. Called Smith v. Allwright, the case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court by Thurgood Marshall, who won. This and similar victories made Adair the subject of bomb threats and other violence, so she kept a gun at her home for protection.
Houston police tried to get the chapter's membership lists from her, but she refused, believing the city was trying to destroy the group. In the ensuing trial, Adair testified for five hours, but never admitted having what the police wanted. Thurgood Marshall again won this case.
Adair also helped desegregate the Houston Public Library, airport, veterans' hospital, city buses, and department store dressing rooms. Her work helped blacks to serve on juries and be hired for county jobs. In 1966, she was one of the first two Blacks elected to the state Democratic committee, but the party refused to seat her delegation. She remained active in community affairs until her death, at 96, in 1989.
Nancy Baker Jones, "ADAIR, CHRISTIA V. DANIELS," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fad19).
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.