She’s considered the grandmother of Juneteenth!
Members of Congress have nominated Juneteenth advocate Opal Lee for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.
On Juneteenth 1939, when Lee was just 12-years-old, a mob of white supremacists attacked Lee and her family’s home in their majority-white neighborhood. Since then, Lee has been fighting for equality and freedom for African-Americans, becoming a devoted advocate for the national recognition of Juneteenth, the day that the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom.
As Lee’s efforts continued, her work has been spotlighted in national media and in children’s books. Lee helped establish the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, documenting Fort Worth Texas’ Black history and became a founding member of Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity, another Fort Worth organization helping the underserved. She also started the Fort Worth Juneteenth Museum, soon to become the National Juneteenth Museum, and has been behind efforts to acquire a former KKK meeting hall in Texas to transform it into a multicultural arts and healing center.
In 2016, at the age of 89, Lee set out to walk 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C. to bring attention to her cause to have Juneteenth nationally recognized. And when President Joe Biden finally named Juneteenth a national holiday, Lee was right there in the White House to witness the historic occasion. Now, thirty-three members of Congress have nominated the 95-year-old for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
“I’m still reacting. I don’t know how to react. I’m awfully, awfully glad. I’m humbled,” said Lee of the nomination.
The members of Congress, led by Congressman Marc Veasey of Texas’ 33rd District, drafted a letter for the nomination, noting Lee's commitment to equality.
“I have been proud to call Ms. Lee a friend and mentor for nearly my whole life and was honored to work alongside her to finally get Juneteenth made into a federal holiday last year. I cannot think of a better person who has constantly fought for justice, and that is why I am nominating her to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Veasey said.
The Nobel Committee allows any living person or organization to be nominated as Nobel Peace Prize laureates. In all, 33 Congress members signed the nomination letter highlighting the importance of Lee’s work.
“The celebration of Juneteenth became for her not just a day to celebrate the freeing of enslaved people in Texas but the recognition of the need to uphold the freedoms that African Americans gained and a call to fight… for equality for all humans,” they wrote in the nomination letter.
Lee said helping others is second nature for her and something she learned from her parents and grandparents. She believes it's everyone’s duty to help the next person.
“We are our brother’s keeper. I’ve been told that all my life. So I don’t know what to say except you just have to keep doing it,” she said.
Nobel Peace Prize winners will be announced this October. Congratulations Ms. Opal Lee!
Photo Courtesy of Opal Lee