Culture / Newsy

This Fort Worth Grandmother is the True Driving Force Behind Juneteenth Becoming a National Holiday — The Real Story of Opal Lee

Making a World of Difference, Getting Plenty of Love From Joe Biden

BY // 06.18.21

Fort Worth’s own Opal Lee is the driving force behind the United States’ new national holiday. In large part due to Lee’s tireless efforts, Juneteenth is finally officially a national holiday, forever commemorating a too often forgotten piece of American history.

Of course, Lee was on hand to witness the new national holiday being signed into law at the White House on Thursday. President Joe Biden even got down on one knee to recognize her.

Long celebrated in the state of Texas, where its history is centered, the significance of Juneteenth will not be lost on the rest of the country now. In fact, it’s now the first new national holiday in more than 30 years. It’s the culmination of Opal Lee’s dream and she is not alone.

While President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation declared an end to slavery in 1862, the news largely did not reach Texas until two and half years later. With the official surrender of the Confederacy on April 9, 1865, the Civil War drew to a close. But nothing changed for slaves in Galveston, Texas until Union general Gordon Granger finally reached the island on June 19 to inform some 250,000 slaves who had not been told the news that they were now free. Which set off a joyous celebration.

Opal Lee’s Mission

Opal Lee has dedicated years of her life to enshrining Juneteenth in the national memory and seeing it become a national holiday. At 94 years of age, Lee has been lacing up her running shoes and taking her message across the country for years. She also hosted an annual walk for freedom, which has grown steadily and garnered signatures and support for her cause.

For Lee, who is known as The Grandmother of Juneteenth, it is personal. Her own great-grandmother was born into bondage. The significance of the newest national holiday cannot be lost on generations to come. Lee grew up in Marshall, Texas, celebrating the holiday with family, friends and community.

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Now, it will be recognized across the country as an official national holiday.

You can even join Opal Lee for breakfast in Fort Worth this Saturday, June 19th to celebrate the first nationally recognized Juneteenth. Visit Fort Worth is hosting the event from 8 am to 10 am at Evans Avenue Plaza (1050 Evans Avenue) in the southside of Fort Worth.

The celebration will include musical performances from The Key Church Choir, local singer-songwriter Sanni and the Jubilee Theatre.⁠⁠ Breakfast tickets are available for $15 for on-site tastings of Carpenter’s Cafe & Catering, Mama E’s,BBQ & Homecooking, Black Coffee, Creative Cuisines Catering and Cinnaholic. Tickets also will be available for purchase at the event.

It’s a celebration this iconic Fort Worth legend has more than earned.

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