Opal Lee, nicknamed the Grandmother of Juneteenth, saw her family’s home in Fort Worth, Texas, burned to the ground by a mob of 500 white rioters. The date was June 19, 1939.
In January 2017, she arrived at the Nation’s Capital, completing a five-month march that urged lawmakers to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.
At 89 years old, she had walked two and a half miles a day from her home in Fort Worth, T.X. to Washington, D.C. to advocate for national unity around this celebration of freedom.
On June 17, 2021, she saw her dream become a reality when President Joe Biden signed legislation that recognized Juneteenth as a federal holiday, adding a powerful narrative to our nation’s history.
Last year, Lee was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her decades-long advocacy efforts surrounding Juneteenth. Though Lee didn’t win, she said she was still “surprised” and “humbled” by the nomination.
Lee told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that she plans to continue her advocacy work by raising money for the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, a $70 million project.
Article by Amy Schlag, Equity and Inclusion Specialist at the City of Wilmington. This is part two. of a three-part series.