THE JOY OF JUNETEENTH! BOOK SIGNING

Story and photos by Greg Miley, Speakin’ Out News staff writer

Teacher and activist Opal Lee a.k.a the”Grandmother ofJuneteenth”visitedHuntsville. She was responsible for President Joe Biden making Juneteenth a federally-recognized holiday.

In June 2021, at the age of 94, teacher and activist Dr. Opal Lee’s, a.k.a. the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” efforts succeeded as a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden. She was an honored guest at the bill signing ceremony, receiving the first of many pens Biden used to sign the document. Sitting in the front row, she received a standing ovation, and Biden got down on one knee to greet her. (Greg Miley, SON photographer)

The United Women of Color (UWOC) and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) Humanities Center sponsored a book signing for Dr. Opal Lee, who is affectionally known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.” Dr. Lee is the author of the children’s book “Juneteenth A Children’s Story.”

The event was held at the historic J. L. Moran Hall on the campus of Oakwood University on Sunday, August 28, 2022, at 3:00 p.m.

In 2019 Dr. Lee started an online petition campaign that resulted in over 1.6 million signatures for the establishment of Juneteenth, a national holiday. She was present on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, establishing June 19 as” Juneteenth,” a federal holiday. Dr. Lee was born in Marshall, Texas, in 1926 and is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

UAH gave paperback copies of the book to the first one hundred persons attending. The Aeolians of Oakwood University provided music for the event.

Lee campaigned for decades to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. She promoted the idea by leading 2.5 miles (4.0 km) walks each year, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of the Emancipation Proclamation to reach Texas. At the age of 89, Lee conducted a symbolic walk from Fort Worth, from which she departed in September 2016, to Washington, D.C., where she arrived in January 2017. She hoped to plead the case for a federal holiday directly to President Barack Obama. Lee has not only marched in Texas but also in Fort Smith and Little Rock, Arkansas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Atlanta, Georgia; Selma, Alabama; and the Carolinas. She promoted a petition for a Juneteenth federal holiday at Change.org; the petition received 1.6 million signatures. She said, “It’s going to be a national holiday; I do not doubt it. My point is let’s make it a holiday in my lifetime.