93-year-old Fort Worth grandma leads march to make Juneteenth a national holiday

Opal Lee made her annual Juneteenth walk in grand fashion Friday.

The 93-year-old grandmother from Fort Worth has become a community activist fighting to make the day slaves in Texas learned of their freedom two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed a national holiday.

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“When the slaves came in from work and somebody read that to them, they started celebrating and we’ve been celebrating it ever since,” she said.

Lee led a small group of marchers on a 2.5-mile walk through Fort Worth. A long caravan of supporters followed behind them while socially distancing in their cars.

“It’s not just the day that slaves were emancipated, it’s a day this vile tradition was ended in this country. It should be a day everybody celebrates,” supporter Devin Compton said.

“It’s been long overdue. I love her and her courage, at her age sacrifice, sacrifice,” supporter Barbee Mitchell added.

She has been trying to raise awareness about the historic day in 1865 for over 40 years.

In 2016, she walked 1,300 miles from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. in hopes that someone in the capitol would take notice of her cause

“We are trying to give Congress 1 million signatures so they’ll know it’s not just one little old lady in tennis shoes,” she said.

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Lee said it frustrates her that it’s taken so long for people to recognize the holiday but she’s glad it’s beginning to happen now.

Lee also said she’s glad that Fort Worth is her home. The city supports her efforts and this year is celebrating Juneteenth with an official proclamation and a virtual event.

“Fort Worth is proud to recognize and honor Opal Lee and this important day in American history,” Mayor Betsy Price said.

The city’s two-hour virtual program will be streamed on the city’s YouTube and Facebook page, as well as Fort Worth’s website.

It looks at some of the challenges facing Fort Worth as it works toward justice for all.

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