Grandmother of Juneteenth visits Sherman
SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — "Change their minds," said Opal Lee, known as the grandmother of Juneteenth. "If people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love."
Sherman's First United Bank's community room was full of people wanting to hear Lee tell her story about how Texas slaves did not learn about their emancipation until June 19, 1865 — more than two years after slavery had been abolished on January 1, 1863.
"If I walk two-and-a-half miles, somebody would take notice of a little old lady in tennis shoes. Symbolizing that it took two-and-a-half years, people didn't know the enslaved were free," she said.
Lee's granddaughter," Dione Sims, also spoke about the pride she feels for her heritage.
"It has been my pleasure to help my grandmother accomplish the things she's set in her heart to do," Sims said. "She's been doing Juneteenth for over 45 years."
Now 96, Opal Lee still walks every year as part of many celebrations for Juneteenth, which became a federal holiday on June 17, 2021.
"How long are we going to celebrate freedom?" Sims asked.
"From Juneteenth to the Fourth of July," Lee responded.
Attendees were able to ask her questions, and she introduced her new children's book.
"The young people need to know their history," said Opal Lee. "They need to know the things that happened so they can make decisions so that it never happens again."