90-Year-Old Civil Rights Activist Starts Second March to Washington for Juneteenth

Ninety-year-old civil rights activist Opal Lee is putting her walking shoes to work once again, to show the world the importance of Juneteenth.

June 19, 1865, is the date when Texas slaves learned they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation two years prior. Now it's a state holiday in 45 states.

Lee is leading the chorus to make the day a national holiday.

Friday evening, Lee symbolically started her second march to Washington. She left from Baker Chapel AME Church at 6 p.m. to walk the first two-and-a-half miles of the journey.

When NBC 5 caught up with her Friday afternoon, she already had her walking shoes laced up and ready to go. This time she'll do the walk in shifts, with others swapping in.

Lee marched her case to then-President Barack Obama last year, trying to get Juneteenth declared a national holiday. It's a journey of nearly 1,400 miles.

This time, she's heading toward a different administration and says she hopes things will have settled down in Washington by the time she arrives.

“The administration now is in such turmoil and I’m hoping by the time I get there – I don’t figure I’m going to get there tomorrow – that things will have changed,” Lee said. “It will have subsided and people will be working together, and that I’ll get somebody to listen to me.”

Lee is hoping to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus and speak before all of Congress. She believes recognizing Juneteenth would symbolize the road behind and the journey still ahead of us.

"There's so many things that all ethnic groups have in common and I'm wanting to know that we're no different than anyone else,” she said. “We want the same things they want and we still haven't acquired a good education for our children, a decent living, a place to stay, some financial security. All these things we need."

Here are some of the Juneteenth events Lee will attend in Fort Worth this weekend:

  • Saturday, June 17, 8 a.m. - 5K/1 mile walk/run
  • Saturday, June 17, 10:30 a.m. Juneteenth parade
  • Saturday, June 17, 11 a.m. - 3-on-3 basketball tournament
  • Saturday, June 17, 1 p.m. - Juneteenth Community Festival at the Tarrant County College South Campus
  • Sunday, June 18, 4 p.m. - Teen Choir Explosion Concert
  • Monday, June 19, 7 p.m. - "The Last to Know" documentary premiere 

More details about the events can be found on Fort Worth's Juneteenth website.

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