On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring that slaves were freed. Yet it wasn't until June 19, 1865, now known as Juneteenth, that an order freeing slaves under the Emancipation Proclamation was announced in Galveston, Texas.
Opal Lee, known as the mother of Juneteenth, from Ft. Worth Texas, worked for years to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. In 2016, at 89 years of age, she walked 2 ½ miles each day on a journey to symbolize the 2 ½ years between the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation and when that news reached Galveston.
Seven years after her historic walk, Lee’s activism continues to make news. In 2021, she was honored at the White House as President Biden signed the bill designating Juneteenth an official federal holiday. Last year, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and this year she was honored as the second Black woman to have her portrait hung in the Texas Senate chamber.
In a recent Texas Monthly profile, Opal emphasized to Texans that we can get more done when we walk as one. "As great as the country is, it could be so much greater if we realized what could be done together."
Today we honor the walks of Opal Lee, the many who paved the path before her, and the millions who will follow in their steps.