Honoring Dr. Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth

Social and Racial Justice

Today Those Nerdy Girls honor Dr. Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth.

We first wrote about her last year (scroll down to read that post) and now want to give you some exciting updates on her amazing life and contributions to society.

🟣 On May 3, 2024, Dr. Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Joe Biden in a ceremony at The White House. In her comments after receiving the medal, Dr. Lee said, The Bible says we are our brother’s keeper, so let’s get busy helping folks as long as you can and as much as you can. That don’t mean you got to take him home and give him your bed.”

🟣 Dr. Opal Lee received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Southern Methodist University at the University’s May 11, 2024, commencement ceremony.

🟣 On June 14, 2024, Dr. Lee saw her brand new home in Ft. Worth, TX, for the first time. It sits on the same plot of land as the childhood home her family moved into in 1939 when she was 12. At the time, it was a white neighborhood. On Juneteenth four days after they moved in, an angry racist mob showed up and burned the house to the ground. Police came but did nothing to control the mob. Dr. Lee had always dreamed of having a home on that land, which had stood vacant for years. Many civic organizations and private companies came together to make her dream a reality. As she sat in a rocker on her new front porch, she said, “This world should be one where there’s no strife. And I don’t know how that will happen but I’m looking forward to being a peaceful old lady.”

🟣 In Dallas on Wednesday, June 19th, 2024, at the age of 97, Dr. Lee will once again complete her annual 2.5-mile walk to recognize the 2.5 years it took for the news and enforcement of freedom to reach the enslaved people in Texas.

🟣 Dr. Lee is the founding board member of The National Juneteenth Museum, scheduled to open in Ft. Worth, TX, in 2026. The $70 million, 50,000-square foot museum will serve as a cultural center, business incubator, and mixed-income residential community. See more here.

Learn more about Dr. Opal Lee and the history of Juneteenth in this TNG post from 2023:

Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It is named for June 19th, the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas found out they were free.

Ms. Lee, who refers to herself as “just a little old lady in tennis shoes getting in everybody’s business,” has effected lasting change in our country. At age 89, she made it her mission to have Juneteenth declared a federal holiday, something she accomplished on June 17, 2021, when President Biden signed the legislation with Ms. Lee at his side.

In 2016, Ms. Opal Lee walked 1,600 miles from her home in Ft. Worth, TX, to Washington, DC, to draw attention to the importance of Juneteenth. She walked 2.5 miles per day to reflect the 2.5 years that passed after the Emancipation Proclamation before enslaved people in Texas found out they were free.

At the age of 96, she continues to fight tirelessly for justice for all and walks 2.5 miles every year at Opal’s Walk for Freedom. In her words, ” If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love. And changing minds can actually be done. It’s not going to happen in a day. You’ve got to work at it.”

Learn more about Juneteenth and Ms. Opal Lee:

NYT Guide to Juneteenth

NYT Opal Lee’s Juneteenth Vision Is Becoming Reality

Oprah Daily – Juneteenth Is Now a National Holiday, and Opal Lee Is Partially to Thank

NPR – Slavery Didn’t End On Juneteenth. What You Should Know About This Important Day

Link to Original FB Post