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Why 94-Year-Old Activist Opal Lee Marched to Make Juneteenth a National Holiday

Ms. Opal Lee is on the move. The 94-year-old activist from Fort Worth, Texas, who is oft-referred to as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” has already begun her annual Walk to D.C., as part of her efforts to see the momentous day recognized as a federal holiday.

Each year on June 19, Lee makes a two-and-a-half-mile pilgrimage to commemorate the date in 1865, two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, when more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas learned that they were finally free, marking the true end of slavery in America.

The resulting holiday, Juneteenth — also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day — has long been a major celebration in Texas, but until Thursday, when President Biden signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, not all 50 states recognized or commemorated it.

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