Sep 28, 2022 - News

Grandmother of Juneteenth launches Dallas story walk

A photo of a sign with a book at a Dallas park

Learn Opal Lee's story on a walk through the park. Photo: Tasha "Reader" Tsiaperas/Axios

Opal Lee delivered a simple message to Dallas elementary school students this week: "You can lead this country."

Driving the news: The Fort Worth icon visited children yesterday during the launch of the city's new Juneteenth Story Walk at Pacific Plaza Park in downtown Dallas.

Why it matters: Lee was integral to making June 19 a federal holiday to memorialize when the last enslaved people in Texas learned they were free, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

  • She calls the holiday the nation's true independence day.
Opal Lee holds a children's book about her
Opal Lee's story is bookworthy. Photo: Tasha Tsiaperas/Axios

What happened: After an introduction by Mayor Eric Johnson, the still-agile 95-year-old Lee moved the podium so the children could sit in the shade to hear her call to action.

  • About a dozen gathered around Lee afterward to ask questions about her life and what it was like to walk to Washington.
  • One boy declared: "I can't believe we're meeting Ms. Opal Lee. She's a legend here."

Flashback: The retired teacher told the children about how she started walking when she was 89 to call for Juneteenth to be made a national holiday, telling them it's never too early or too late to change the world.

What she's saying: Lee says children will be the ones to fix some of the country's ills, including homelessness, health care that isn't affordable for all and climate change.

  • "I don't want to frighten them. I just want them to understand that they can do so much for us," she told Axios. "If they heard what I said, they'll be the ones to turn this country around, and it needs some turning."

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