Opal Lee and Her Historic Walk: Paving the Way for Juneteenth Recognition
Fort Worth has been home to numerous important historical figures and moments, but perhaps none are more significant than Fort Worth’s own Opal Lee. Also known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Opal Lee is known for her efforts toward getting “Juneteenth” recognized as a federal holiday. Born in Marshall, Texas, in 1926, Lee moved with her mother to Fort Worth at the age of 16. Eventually, Lee would earn her Bachelor of Arts from Wiley College before returning to Fort Worth to have an impactful and fruitful career as an educator in the Fort Worth school system.
In 2016, at the age of 89, Opal Lee drew national attention when she decided to make the long walk from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of Juneteenth and lobby for its recognition as a national holiday. She traveled two and a half miles every day to symbolize the two and a half years that black Texans remained unfree between the Emancipation Proclamation’s national abolition of slavery in January 1863 and the day when that message finally reached to Galveston, Texas, on June 19th, 1865.
On June 17th, 2021, Lee finally saw her hard work come to fruition when President Biden signed the Juneteenth Independence Day Act, declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.
Opal Lee continues to make an annual 2.5-mile walk to help educate the nation on the importance of freedom for all. Her Walk for Freedom will take place this year on Monday, June 19th, 2023. Not local? Not a problem! Lee encourages everyone, no matter where they are, to complete their own 2.5-mile walk, whether that be through your neighborhood, a local trail, a park, or even on a treadmill. Register online to help support Opal Lee in her continued efforts to heal the country.
Written by Annie, a local expert guide for Fort Worth Crawling. After living in NYC for three years, this Fort Worth native is excited to return to her roots in Panther City. She enjoys traveling and the great outdoors and is passionate about the arts, community, tacos, and (of course) Texas beer. Join Annie for history and beer on Fort Worth Crawling’s Cowboy Pub Crawl!