Grandmother of Juneteenth Opal Lee holds annual Walk for Freedom in Dallas

Hundreds of people gathered at Dallas Fair Park to carry out the dream of a woman who fought for Juneteenth to be a federal holiday. They took part in Opal Lee's Walk for Freedom.

The walk was in Dallas for the first time as part of a new campaign to launch Juneteenth walks across the country and around the world.

Many supporters at Wednesday’s walk said while it may have been a different city, it was the same wonderful feeling to be able to take part. 

"This isn’t my first year to do the walk. So I came because of that feeling," said walk participant Heather Bunkley Allen. "It’s a big sense of community, and it’s a big sense of way delayed recognition."

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At 97 years old, Lee continues putting one foot in front of the other to indicate that her relentless work that resulted in a national Juneteenth holiday is ongoing in terms of making strides toward social and economic improvements.

"I’m delighted to be here!" Lee said. "It’s more than just barbecue. It’s more than celebrating the moment. It’s about celebrating freedom. It’s so important to know our history."

The 2.5-mile walk represents the 2.5 years it took for the news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Galveston, freeing the slaves in Texas after the Civil War.

"Fun and educational, number one, because you have the youth, and you have people who have never been here to the African American Museum," said walk participant Anita Hawkins.

A priceless exhibit was on display at the State Fair’s Hall of State that shows the actual general order number 3, the only known original copy of the military order delivered in 1865 announcing to Texas slaves that they were, in fact, free.

"I felt proud to be able to walk with those that joined the walk. I felt honored to be a part of history, a part of the moment," said walk participant Nietta Reynolds.

"We got a long way to go, but I think we’ve got a lot of people who are energized and ready to make that happen," Lee said. "I think the spirit today was we are all the same. I met a lot of fellow humans today, but we are all the same."

The new location this year signifies the expansion of the walk and the holiday’s reach worldwide.

By 2026, the goal is for this walk to take place in Washington D.C. as it will be the country’s 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

U.S. President Joe Biden, center, hands a pen to Opal Lee, an activist known as the grandmother of Juneteenth, left, during a signing ceremony for the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U

Earlier this year, Lee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her efforts to make Juneteenth a holiday.