89-Year-Old’s Journey For Juneteenth Is About More Than A Holiday

To bring attention to her cause, she’s on a symbolic walk to Washington.

By Christopher Connelly September 22, 2016 10:33 am| , ,

From KERA News

I met Opal Lee in a church parking lot in southeast Dallas. We were about to start walking, but she’d spotted something: a middle school across the street.

The small woman less than a month away from her 90th birthday saw it as an opportunity, and a challenge. Perhaps we should stop by and ask the principal if she might chat with the students about Juneteenth.

“What do you think? Wanna try?” Lee asks with a grin.

So we cross the street, to where tweens and teens are lining up to go through metal detectors at E.B. Comstock Middle School.

These days, school administrators don’t typically let visitors stroll through unannounced, let alone address students without some vetting, but Lee is undeterred. But when she finds the principal, he’s heard about her walk, so he enthusiastically agrees to let her talk with a few dozen eighth graders. The students are mostly black and Latino.

“How many of you know anything about Juneteenth?” Lee asks.

Four timid hands go up.

“Just a few,” Lee says, and launches into an explanation.

Slavery in America didn’t end in 1863 after Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, she tells them. At least, it didn’t end everywhere. In Texas, it continued.

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