A Community Conversation with Ms. Opal Lee

Updated: Apr 16

Larry Collins | NBC-TV /Dallas-Fort Worth | February 2, 2021


Fort Worth (February 2, 2021)—Ms. Opal sat down with Larry Collins of NBC News for a brief conversation about being named as the Juneteenth Legacy Project’s honorary national co-chair, what it means to her, and why it’s relevant as a voice of history with a message for the future.


On June 19, 2021, a 5,000 square foot art installation and storytelling space will be dedicated in Galveston, where Juneteenth originated. The public art project is being created by Houston artist Reginald Adams.


Many consider Opal Lee the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” but if you ask her who she is, she will tell you she’s “just a little old lady in tennis shoes getting in everybody’s business.” At 94 years old, Opal Lee is still determined to see Juneteenth made a national holiday through bringing awareness to Congress and the administration that the country needs and wants the unity that celebrating the abolition of slavery can bring. She too understood the national relevance of celebrating freedom all across America which is bigger than just Texas.

On June 18, 2020, The New York Times published a feature on Ms. Opal that highlighted her story and vision for making June 19 a national holiday. According to The Times, in 2016, at the age of 89, she decided to walk from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., in an effort to get Juneteenth named a national holiday. She traveled two and a half miles each day to symbolize the two and a half years that black Texans waited between when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, on Jan. 1, 1863, abolishing slavery, and the day that message arrived in Galveston, where black people were still enslaved, on June 19, 1865.