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All About Juneteenth and its Fort Worth Connection

What is the Juneteenth National Independence Day holiday? 

“On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. signed into law the bill that established Juneteenth National Independence Day, June 19, as a legal public holiday. 

“Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, the date Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and delivered General Order No. 3 announcing the end of legalized slavery in Texas. 

“Historically, it has been a holiday celebrated by people of African descent in the United States, as well as people in Canada, Jamaica, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and other countries throughout the world. 

“Juneteenth is also a ‘symbolic date’ representing the African American struggle for freedom and equality, and a celebration of family and community,” according to the Library of Congress

How is Juneteenth connected to Fort Worth? 

It all comes back to longtime Fort Worth resident Opal Lee, now known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth." For years, Opal led 2.5-mile walks in major cities, choosing the distance as a reminder that it took 2.5 years after the Emancipation Proclamation for the news to reach South Texas. Her efforts gained national attention in 2016, when at age 89, she began a 1,400-mile walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., to petition for the recognition of Juneteenth as a national holiday. More than a million people signed the petition. 

Opal Lee and Cook Children’s 
We had the pleasure in 2021 to host a conversation with Opal Lee to discuss her children's book about Juneteenth, the significance of this observance, and what we can all do to bring about more change and understanding. She talked with Wini King, Senior Vice President, Chief of Communications, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, about her goal to educate young people about vital work they can do. Watch this three-minute video

How is Juneteenth celebrated? 
Juneteenth celebrations in the United States typically include prayer and religious services, speeches, educational events, family gatherings and picnics, and festivals with food, music, and dancing, according to Brittanica. 

Red foods and drinks, such as watermelon, red velvet cake, red soda, and hibiscus tea, are sometimes on the menu because the color is a symbol of ingenuity and resilience in bondage, according to The New York Times

Opal Lee has said she hopes Juneteenth becomes a day of service. She encourages people to do one kind act for someone and hopes that the holiday will encourage people to talk about what is needed to end racial disparities, according to Time

Tell me more about the National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth. 

The National Juneteenth Museum is planned for construction near Cook Children’s Medical Center-Fort Worth, in the historic Southside neighborhood on the corner of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue. It is expected to break ground in 2023 and open on June 19, 2025. 

The 50,000 square-foot cultural center “will be a knowledge hub, creating awareness and deepening the understanding of Juneteenth’s impact on the future of the African American community and the nation. 

“It will be a curated experience center to educate guests on the legacy and experiences of the enslaved and provide factual narratives about people who overcame the trials and hardships of oppression,” according to the Museum. 


Juneteenth celebrations in Fort Worth via Visit Fort Worth 

Unity Unlimited’s Annual Juneteenth Fort Worth Celebration 

Historical information from the National Museum of African American History and Culture 

A 35-minute oral history of Opal Lee 

A profile article of Opal Lee in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram 

Renderings of the National Juneteenth Museum