A National Juneteenth Museum Is Finally Coming in 2023

It's set to open in a spot very special to 95-year-old Opal Lee, the "Grandmother of Juneteenth."

A retired Texas teacher who walked halfway across the country in her fight for Juneteenth to be recognized as a national holiday is getting another reason to celebrate.

In 2016, Opal Lee walked from her home in Fort Worth, Texas, all the way to Washington, D.C. She was 89 at the time and logged 2.5 miles a day to recognize the two and a half years Black Texans had to wait for news of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Opal Lee, 93, in Fort Worth, Texas
Opal Lee, 93, stands in front of the East Annie Street lot on June 2, 2021, where white rioters attacked, invaded and burned her familys home in 1939. Known as the Grandmother of Juneteenth, Lee walks every year to symbolize the time it took for slaves in Texas to learn of their freedom. Opal Lee made it to the White House this year where she stood alongside Vice President Kamala Harris as President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. Amanda McCoy/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

"Knowing that slaves didn't get the word for two and a half years after the emancipation, can't you imagine how those people felt," Lee said in a Q & A with The New York Times last year.

Lee was later by President Joe Biden's side when he signed a law officially commemorating Juneteenth as a national holiday. Now, she'll see the community museum she has run for more than two decades become a National Juneteenth Museum commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States.

"To have lived long enough to see my walking and talking make an impact is one thing, but to know that a state-of-the-art museum that will house the actual pen that President Biden used to sign the bill, and many other exhibits, is coming to pass as well — I could do my holy dance again," Lee said in a statement shared by Fort Worth city officials.

The museum will be located on Rosedale Street in Fort Worth's Historic Southside neighborhood on the spot where a community museum that has been Lee's labor of love now sits.

"Oh I'm ecstatic," Lee told NBC. "This new museum is going to be the talk of the town. Not just the town, the whole cotton picking state. You wait and see."

Lee is the oldest-living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation and is often referred to as the Grandmother of Juneteenth for her role in fighting for the acknowledgement of the day news of the Emancipation Proclamation arrived to Galveston at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.

Construction on the National Juneteenth Museum is set to begin in spring 2022 and opening day is expected some time in 2023, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Meena Thiruvengadam is a Travel + Leisure contributor who has visited 50 countries on six continents and 47 U.S. states. She loves historic plaques, wandering new streets and walking on beaches. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.

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