Nashville, TN (TN Tribune)–On June 17, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden of the United States signed Senate Resolution 475 into Public Law 117-17 authorizing the celebration of “Juneteenth National Independence Day” as a national federal holiday. The first Juneteenth celebration was held at Reedy Chapel AME Church in Galveston, Texas on June 19, 1866. One of the driving forces behind the Juneteenth commemoration is Mrs. Opal Lee who was publicly recognized in the White House signing standing alongside the President, Vice President, and several members of the Congressional Black Caucus–including the members from Texas.
Mrs. Lee was born October 7, 1926, in Marshall, Texas. Her mother moved to Fort Worth when she was ten years old. She attended Cooper Street Elementary School and graduated from Historic I.M. Terrell High School in 1943 at the age of 16. She didn’t go straight to college after graduation which was a grave disappointment to her mother but did eventually get there after getting married, having four children, and getting divorced. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1953 from Wiley College (now Wiley University) and returned to Fort Worth to teach at Amanda McCoy Elementary School for 15 years where she was regarded as one of the best educators in her field. At night she worked at Convair (now Lockheed Martin) to support her children. She later obtained her Master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from North Texas State University and served as Home/School Counselor for Fort Worth Independent School District until her retirement in 1977.
Worth where she serves as a Missionary, church school teacher, assistant teacher, and Deaconess.
At 94 years of age, Mrs. Opal Lee still finds time to be a part of the above organizations while still leading two very large projects – the Annual Fort Worth Juneteenth Celebration and the urban farming project.
Under the direction of Mrs. Lee, The Community Food Bank, formerly the Metroplex Food Bank established in 1982, has literally risen from the ashes of an arson fire of its former facility. Mrs. Opal still personally delivers boxes of food to the elderly and shut-in as she did when the former food bank was unable to operate.
The Community Food Bank now services more than 500 families a week at the generously donated 43,000 square foot facility located at 3000 Galvez Street in Fort Worth. Her continued efforts to better the lives of the unemployed or recently incarcerated have led her to develop a 5-acre farming project, Opal’s Farm, to train citizens in the area of husbandry providing education, jobs, volunteer opportunities, and fresh vegetables for the community.
Tarrant Regional Water District granted a lease of 13 acres of land to be used as an urban farm. Opal’s Farm will address the issues of food scarcity and access while providing jobs, job training, entrepreneurial opportunity, and education for local neighborhoods. Since its ribbon cutting on February 15, 2019, we have produced over 10,000 pounds of fresh produce and have been able to give to the community food banks and participate in farmers markets.
Ms. Opal Lee has been devoted to preserving the history and timeline of the emancipation of Texas slaves and the unifying effect of understanding that “None of us are free until we are all free.”
Day of Observance for Juneteenth.