FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The National Juneteenth Museum will soon be built in Fort Worth as a place to preserve the history of the national holiday and to promote discussions about freedom.
The city’s own Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” has been leading the charge to make this museum a reality.
“It’s been in the planning for a long time and to find out that it’s going to come to fruition, I tell you, I don’t know how to express my feelings,” Lee said.
Lee has dedicated decades of her life fighting for recognition of Juneteenth.
Her annual 2.5 mile walks symbolize the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach enslaved people in Texas in June of 1865.
This year, she watched as Congress approved a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday and then stood by President Joe Biden as he signed it into law.
Still, the 95-year-old says her work is far from over.
“Now, the fact that it’s become a holiday, making more people aware of it, but we want others to be aware of it, and I’m excited about the national museum,” she said.
Lee has been operating her own Juneteenth Museum for nearly two decades in Fort Worth’s Historic Southside neighborhood.
The new National Juneteenth Museum will be built on the same land, as part of a mixed-use development.
“It’s going to do a lot for our neighborhood,” said Lee. “We’re hoping that this will encourage others to reinvest, revitalize.”
The museum will explore the significance of Juneteenth and the legacy and experiences of the enslaved.
“It’s just going to be a wonderful exhibit of freedom all across the country and the world,” said Dione Sims, the director of the Juneteenth Museum. “…the exhibits that we’re going to build will be interactive, not just stuff that folks look at, but they can feel and touch and be a part of because our goal is to help people find themselves in the Juneteenth story.”
Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2022, with the museum scheduled to open in 2024.
“It’s a joy,” Lee said. “I feel like oooh this accomplishment, I’m humbled by it. I just want it to happen in my lifetime.”