Opal Lee is a 96-year-old retired teacher, counselor, and activist who has dedicated her life to fighting for justice and equality. She is best known for her work to make Juneteenth a federally-recognized holiday.
Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when news of the Emancipation Proclamation reached enslaved people in Galveston, Texas. This was two and a half years after the proclamation was issued, and it marked the end of slavery in the United States.
Lee was born in Marshall, Texas in 1926. She grew up in a segregated society, and she witnessed firsthand the effects of racism. She was determined to make a difference in the world, and she chose to focus her work on Juneteenth.
In 1980, Lee began leading annual walks to commemorate Juneteenth. These walks were 2.5 miles long, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas. Lee continued to lead these walks for over 40 years, and they became a symbol of her commitment to Juneteenth and to racial justice.
In 2016, at the age of 89, Lee embarked on a 1,400-mile walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., to advocate for making Juneteenth a national holiday. She walked two and a half miles each day, and she was joined by thousands of supporters along the way.
Lee’s efforts were successful, and on June 17, 2021, President Joe Biden signed Senate Bill S. 475, making Juneteenth the eleventh federal holiday. Lee was present at the signing ceremony.
In addition to her work on Juneteenth, Lee has also been a vocal advocate for other causes, including voting rights, education, and economic justice. She is a tireless champion for the rights of all people, and she is a role model for young people and adults alike.
The Importance of Opal Lee’s Work
Opal Lee’s work to make Juneteenth a national holiday is important for several reasons. First, it helps to raise awareness of the history of slavery and the fight for Black liberation. Second, it helps to promote racial healing and reconciliation. Third, it provides an opportunity to celebrate Black culture and achievements.
Juneteenth is a day of great significance for Black Americans. It marks the end of slavery in the United States, and it is a day to celebrate freedom and liberation. However, Juneteenth is also a day to remember the legacy of slavery and to work towards a more just and equitable society.
Opal Lee’s work to make Juneteenth a national holiday is an important step towards achieving these goals. It helps to raise awareness of the history of slavery and the fight for Black liberation. It also provides an opportunity to celebrate Black culture and achievements.
Lee’s work is an inspiration to us all. Her work will continue to have a lasting impact on the fight for a more just and equitable society.