US 'Grandmother of Juneteenth': 'Change people's minds'
Juneteenth celebrations arrive amid culture war on race theory, voting, police reform
Juneteenth's rise in popularity after a year of racial reckoning comes amid a culture war on voting rights and American schools' teachings on race.Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, commemorates June 19, 1865 — the date when Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger issued General Order No. 3, informing the Galveston, Texas, community that President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freed enslaved African Americans in rebel states. It’s also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day.
Opal Lee, an educator and activist who has been dubbed the "Grandmother of Juneteenth," led a crowd of hundreds through Fort Worth, Texas in celebration of the new federal holiday.
Lee, 94, walked two-and-a-half miles through Fort Worth while crowds of people cheered her on,. She was standing next to President Biden when on Thursday, making the day a new national holiday.
"Make yourself a committee of one," Lee said to the gathered crowd. "Change people's minds. People can be taught. They can be taught to hate; they can be taught to love."
Juneteenth's path to becoming a federal holiday was a long time coming
It's the first federal holiday to be approved since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established in 1983. Here's how the fight to recognize it evolved over the years.Since the reckoning reignited by the killing of George Floyd last year, though, the tide has changed enormously.
Lee told the the throngs of people that she had no plans of sitting idle.
"We're going to tackle housing. We're going to tackle joblessness. We're going to tackle schools not putting the right things in the books. We're going to tackle health care. And we're going to tackle climate change. You hope I live that long," she said.
Lee has long pushed for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday. In 2016, she walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. to bring attention to the holiday, often referred to as Black Independence Day. Juneteenth marks the day freedom was declared for slaves in Texas, the last state in the Confederacy to have institutional slavery.
The Dallas Morning News notes that many of those in attendance expressed concern over Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signing a new law that barred the teaching of critical race theory, an academic concept that argues racism has largely impacted legal systems and government policies in the U.S.
"We have to learn about our history," Derric Jones, marcher at the event told the Morning News. "Learning what enslaved people went through is important for all of us, for all races. It's not a black or white thing."
Halle Berry, Lupita Nyong'o & More Celebs Celebrate Juneteenth 2021 .
Earlier this week, President Joe Biden signed a bill making June 19 a federal holiday.This holiday was named for, and is celebrated on, June 19 to commemorate the true ending of slavery in the United States. Earlier this week, days before this year's celebration, the House passed legislation after an unanimous vote and President Joe Biden signed a bill into law recognizing Juneteenth as an official federal holiday.