Juneteenth: Meet Opal Lee, The ‘Grandmother’ Of Juneteenth

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.

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