Opal Lee, a 94-year-old civil rights fighter, marched for miles to have Juneteenth declared a federal holiday.
On June 17, Opal Lee chats with President Biden after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Proclamation.
Opal Lee, aged 89, laced up her sneakers and walked 1,400 miles from her home in Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., trying to persuade President Barack Obama to declare Juneteenth a national holiday.
She wasn’t sure if she’d be allowed into the White House, though.
She wrote to Obama, “You could save me a lot of shoe leather and a lot of wear and tear on an old body by mentioning how soon you can visit me.”
Enslaved people in the Southern states were emancipated with the Emancipation Proclamation. She garnered national headlines, was cast in the film “Miss Juneteenth,” and amassed over 1.6 million signatures on a petition to commemorate the holiday.
Nevertheless, this wasn’t until last week that Lee, dubbed the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” saw the moment for which she had fought and walked. With Lee, now 94, by his side, President Biden signed legislation creating a new federal holiday marking the end of slavery on Thursday.
Congress heeded her plea this week, with the House joining the Senate in approving the bill handily on Wednesday.