Ms. Opal Lee, the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Honored in Duncanville

Ms. Opal Lee honored
Photo courtesy City of Duncanville

Ms. Opal Lee was the special honoree for the City of Duncanville’s Black History Month event, featuring a well-attended fireside chat with the Texas woman known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth. She is admired all over the world for her actions and tenacity in having June 19—the oldest known celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.–recognized by the federal government as a national holiday.

A retired teacher, counselor, and activist living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ms. Lee decided she needed to do more if she wanted to see her dream come true. In 2016, at the age of 89, Ms. Opel Lee started walking from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. After receiving the blessing of Baker Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, she walked about 2 ½ miles before being picked up by supporters.

Ms. Opal Lee welcomed
Photo courtesy City of Duncanville

The well-publicized journey took her through Texas to Arkansas, St. Louis, Atlanta, Georgia and many other cities and states before she reached D.C. in January, 2017. She said rapper P. Diddy helped get 1,500,000 signatures for Ms. Lee and her supporters to take to Congress.

Ms. Opal Lee Mission Successful

Her mission was finally successful, with President Joe Biden signing the proclamation in 2021 to make June 19 a national holiday. The fireside chat with the legendary Ms. Opal Lee, organized by Duncanville Event Director Angela Owens, was held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 8 at the D. L. Hopkins Jr. Senior Center

Mayor welcomes Ms. Opal Lee
Photo courtesy City of Duncanville

Mayor Barry Gordon welcomed Ms. Opal Lee to the City, and the lively conversation was moderated by Duncanville City Council Member at Large DeMonica Gooden and District 4 councilmember Karen Cherry-Brown. The event offered a one-of-a-kind opportunity for members of the community to connect with Ms. Lee, still a sought-after speaker at the age of 97, and learn more about her incredible journey. Her passion for education and unity has made her a respected figure in communities nationwide.

Duncanville Black History Month

The Black History Month event was free to attend, and members of the community who attended were enlightened and inspired to learn more about the enduring legacy of Ms. Opal Lee. She has also published a book, “Juneteenth: A Children’s Story Special Edition.” The City of Fort Worth is also establishing a National Juneteenth Museum in her honor. The museum, expected to open in the Southside district in June, 2025, will host exhibits and educational events.

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.