‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ talks about her activism after racism hurt her family

‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ talks about her activism after racism hurt her family

FORT WORTH, Texas – The Juneteenth Day of Observance — to celebrate when freedom finally came to the over 250,000 enslaved people in Texas on June 19, 1865 — would not be a federally recognized holiday without the activism of Opal Lee.

Her campaign to walk from Fort Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., inspired a movement in 2016. The retired teacher was 89 when she walked 2.5 miles in different areas of the country. It was a symbolic protest. Each step marked the 2.5 years it took for the Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential order on Jan. 1, 1863, to be enforced in Texas.

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After her walks, Lee delivered a petition with 1.5 million signatures to Congress. The first Juneteenth was in 2021. Her family’s nightmare likely fueled her activism. She was 12 years old when a racist mob who didn’t want them to live in an all-white neighborhood set her home on fire on June 19, 1939, at 940 East Annie St., in Fort Worth, Texas.

At 97, Lee plans to move back on June 19, the 85th anniversary of the nightmarish fire. The recent reclamation of her family’s land along East Annie Street was made possible when Habitat for Humanity, History Maker Homes, and Capital Bank teamed up in Fort Worth and handed her the keys to a new house there on June 14.


‘Grandmother of Juneteenth’ talks about activism


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