For Texan Opal Lee, making Juneteenth a national holiday has been a lifelong goal— literally.
At 93-years-old, Ms. Lee shows no signs of slowing down in her efforts to get Juneteenth made into a national holiday. In 2016, at the age of 90, Ms. Lee organized a walking campaign to walk from Texas to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness.
This year, Ms. Lee is bringing attention to a petition she started on Change.org to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, garnering over 950,000 to date. Ms. Lee is looking for a million signatures
“My goal with this petition and my walk is to show the Congress and the President that I am not alone in my desire to see national recognition of a day to celebrate ‘Freedom for All,’” the petition reads.
Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19, started in Texas and marked the date when the last of the enslaved in the United States were set free. Forty-six states and Washington D.C. currently observe it as a holiday at the state level.
The significance of Juneteenth hits personally for Ms. Lee. When she was just 13-years-old, her family’s home was burned down by a mob of angry white people in an attempt to scare her family out of their predominantly white neighborhood— on Juneteenth. The devastating experience has stayed with Ms. Lee all her life.
“I’m going to keep right on doing this until I know it’s a holiday. And I feel it in my bones,” Lee told CBS News.