Texas activist Opal Lee, known as Grandmother of Juneteenth, recognized at official bill signing

President Joe Biden speaks with Opal Lee after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Joe Biden speaks with Opal Lee after he signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Opal Lee has been working for decades to get Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday. And the work finally paid off.

Known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Lee witnessed President Joe Biden sign the long-awaited bill Thursday. She held hands with Vice President Kamala Harris, while others, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, observed.

Lee also received Biden’s first pen used to sign the historic legislation.

“You are an incredible woman,” Biden said about Lee during the official signing at the White House.

The 94-year-old Texas activist and educator has walked thousands of miles across America to bring awareness to Juneteenth. She organized walking campaigns in cities like Dallas and Galveston and collected more than 1.5 million signatures in an online campaign.

“I’m going to keep walking until Juneteenth is a national holiday,” said Lee told KPRC 2 previously.

Juneteenth, also known as “Black Independence Day” and “Texas Emancipation Day,” is the day freedom from slavery was proclaimed in Texas. This was nearly two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

From Galveston to cities across America, the holiday is honored with parades, cookouts and festivals.

It is also a time of reflection, education and civic engagement.


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