Opal Lee, the ‘Grandmother of Juneteenth,’ Honored With the Presidential Medal of Freedom

The 96-year-old “Freedom Fighter” is one of 19 recipients who will receive the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Opal Lee, who is known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”  has been recognized with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, CBS reports.

Lee will receive the award on Friday (May 3) along with other civil rights icons Clarence B. Jones and Medgar Wiley Evers.

In a statement by the White House, the honorees were lauded for their immense contributions to equality and justice.

"These nineteen Americans built teams, coalitions, movements, organizations, and businesses that shaped America for the better," the White House statement read. "They are the pinnacle of leadership in their fields. They consistently demonstrated over their careers the power of community, hard work, and service."

In 2017, Lee, a 96-year-old retired teacher and a counselor, walked from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday on June 19. She walked two and a half miles at a time during her voyage to D.C. “to honor the two and a half years it took Gen.[Gordon] Granger to arrive in Texas.”

Lee was also honored in Texas for her activism efforts with a portrait that hangs in the Capitol's Senate Chamber. She received the Fort Worth Inc. magazine's 2022 "Person of the Year" award. Additionally, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Congress that same year.

On June 19, 1865, the freedom of African American enslaved persons was proclaimed in Texas, following a two-and-a-half-year wait.

More than a century and a half later, emancipation is now celebrated and recognized as a federal holiday in the United States after President Joe Biden signed the bill into legislation in 2021

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