After years of fighting for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday, Ms. Opal Lee walked again Saturday now knowing that it has.
With an umbrella held over her head for shade, the 94-year-old "Grandmother of Juneteenth" led a large crowd from the Evans Avenue Plaza in Southside to the courthouse in downtown Fort Worth.
"Please, please continue the kinds of things you know we need to become one people," Lee said in front of a crowd at the end of the walk. "It’s not a white thing. It’s not a Black thing. It’s an American thing."
Juneteenth — a blending of June and 19th — marks the day on June 19, 1865, that the Emancipation Proclamation was officially recognized in Texas, 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed it and 2 1/2 months after the end of the Civil War.
Lee's walk of 2 1/2 miles symbolized the time that it took for slaves in Texas to learn of their freedom.
Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston in June 1865 and issued an order informing Texans that the Civil War had ended two months earlier with the Confederacy's surrender and that Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was now the law of the land.
Lee's 2021 walk comes two days after she stood alongside Vice President Kamala Harris as President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, marking the day as the nation's 11th federal holiday.
The holiday is just the beginning. Lee said there was still work to be done to address disparities.
Lee, a Fort Worth educator, spent more than four decades working to highlight the day and grow it from a community picnic into a nationally recognized holiday.
"Know that I love you and know we’re going to continue to make this the best place in the whole wide world," she told the crowd.
In 2016, Lee walked from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. to bring attention to Juneteenth.