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Lifelong Efforts Of Fort Worth's Opal Lee Has Juneteenth On Way To Becoming Federal Holiday

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - The U.S. House joined the Senate on Wednesday, June 16 overwhelmingly voting to make Juneteenth a federal holiday.

All of this thanks to the lifelong efforts of 94-year-old Fort Worth resident Opal Lee, considered the grandmother of Juneteenth.

Her entire life she has celebrated Juneteenth, and now Congress has passed a bill making it a federal holiday.

President Biden is expected to sign it soon.

"I've got so many different feelings all gurgling up in here," Lee said. "I don't know what to call them all. I am so delighted to know that suddenly we've got a Juneteenth. It's not a Texas thing or a black thing. It's an American thing."

"It symbolizes Opal Lee of Fort Worth, Texas. Long known as the mother of Juneteenth. And now known nationally for her endeavors to help make today possible," said Rep. Marc Veasey, (D) Fort Worth.

Lee has worked towards this moment her entire life. Five years ago, she walked from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. to urge lawmakers to make this happen.

Opal Lee
Opal Lee (CBS 11)

The day celebrates June 19, 1865, marking the true end of slavery in the U.S.

On that day, slaves in Galveston were informed of their freedom by federal troops.. about two months after the end of the Civil War and two years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

At Globe Life Field, during the Arlington Black Chamber of Commerce's 5th Annual Juneteenth celebration, attendees joined in her joy.

"I think the reason why we're here today and have a national holiday to celebrate is because of work from people like her so

what would I say is thank you because she's done the heavy lifting there," Jacquelyn Minor said.

Lee said there were times she wasn't sure she'd this day in her lifetime.

However, she always kept her faith alive.

"I need to be on my knees praying because the Lord has been so good to me," she said. "You can't do these things without his help."

In the days, weeks and months to come she says she'll continue to lean in, her work is not over yet.

"We might take a breather, but we've got all these disparities we've got to address and I mean all of them," she said. "While we got the momentum I hope we can get some of it done. We can have one America if we try."

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