Black Historical Society to honor Opal Lee, influential women at anniversary event

🕐 6 min read

On an evening that will feature Fort Worth’s very own Nobel Peace Prize nominee, the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society will celebrate Black women who have played a key role in the growth and prosperity of the DFW area.

The organization is celebrating its 45th anniversary in conjunction with International Women’s History Month. The one-night special event with the theme “The Future is Now – Keeping History Relevant” will be held  Saturday, March 26, from 7-10 p.m. at the Kimpton Harper Hotel, 714 Main St.

The program will include special recognition for Brenda Sanders-Wise, executive director of the nonprofit Historical Society and curator of the Lenora Rolla Heritage Center Museum. Two individuals will be honored as Next Gen Trailblazers and 10 female members of the organization, including charter member and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize nominee Opal Lee, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Lee, the 95-year-old Fort Worth educator and community activist known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her decades-long campaign to have Juneteenth declared a federal holiday, was in attendance at the White House last June when President Joe Biden fulfilled her goal by signing legislation making Juneteenth the 11th federal holiday.

- Advertisement -

“History is now, not just in the past, but the present and the future,” Sanders-Wise said. “It is so important now, more than ever, to experience the legacies Black community members have left behind, are creating and will create,”

“We have chosen to recognize these amazing women because of their strength, courage, self-confidence, optimism, and commitment to the community,” she said. “These women have defied the odds, broken through glass ceilings, become icons in their communities, paved the way for others to do the same. Their stories serve as beacons of light and remind all of us that their history is important.”

In addition to the honors awarded, the evening will include special remarks by Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker, City Council Representative Chris Nettles, Tarrant County Precinct 1 Commissioner Roy Charles Brooks, and U.S, Rep. Marc Veasey, among others.

“Not many organizations survive 45 years, so we are proud to continue the work of our founder, Mrs. Rolla, honor those who are pillars of the community, especially the unsung ‘heroes,’ and thank our many loyal members and donors for their loyal support,” Sanders-Wise said.

- Advertisement -

Sanders-Wise said the Kimpton Harper Hotel, formerly the home of XTO Energy, was chosen as the host venue because of its historical significance. The hotel occupies a building constructed in 1921 as the headquarters for Farmer’s and Mechanics Bank. At 24 stories, the building was once the tallest west of the Mississippi and was the tallest in Fort Worth until 1957.

“Our organization is very involved in preserving history, hence the attraction,” Sanders-Wise said. “The key to having great attendance for any event is the location. The Kimpton Harper Hotel is centrally located for all attendees, whether traveling from areas of Fort Worth, Dallas, Arlington, Hurst, Euless or Bedford. Another plus is valet parking that is available, as well as free parking on the street after 6 p.m.”

Past venues have included the 20th anniversary celebration at the Tarrant County College South Campus, the 35th anniversary celebration at the Fort Worth Public Library downtown location and the 40th anniversary celebration at the TCC Trinity River Campus.

The Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society was founded in April 1977 by 21 charter members. The organization was conceived by Lenora Rolla, a community activist and devoted public servant. As a member of multiple bicentennial committees, she was concerned that the history of Tarrant County’s Black citizens was unrecognized during these celebrations.

- Advertisement -

She founded the organization after realizing that none of the local universities or libraries held any significant material about Black history, and essential archival material only existed in private collections. Her vision to collect, safeguard, and uplift Black history for the future has inspired the organization for 45 years.

“I am excited to be celebrating our 45th Anniversary because our organization has believed in Lenora Rolla’s vision and has worked tirelessly to keep it sustained and alive,” said Jimmy Walker, president of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society.

“I am proud to say, through hard work, dedication, and commitment, we have sustained this organization for 45 years,” Walker said. “Additionally, this celebration gives us the opportunity to recognize and honor some of the great trailblazers and thank our community for their continued support.”

Honored as Next Gen Traiilblazers during the program will be Dr. Aiyanna B. Anderson, Chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Texas Health Harris Hospital Fort Worth; and Kam Phillips-Sadler, CEO of KidKare and founder of Dream Outside the Box.

The Hall of Fame inductees are:

  • Opal Lee – Charter member of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society, educator, author, “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” and Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
  • Faye Barksdale – During her tenure with American Airlines-Love Field she was the first African American to be selected to manage public/corporate clients at the ticket counter. She was also the first Texas Sponsor of the Hal Jackson Ms. Texas Black Teenage America Pageant.
  • Marnese Barksdale Elder – First woman to lead the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, president of Mecca Management Solutions, LLC., and current president of the Dallas/Fort Worth Fisk University Alumni Club.
  • Clara Faulkner – Mayor of Forest Hill. She is a concerned and committed labor and community activist and currently is president of the A. Philip Randolph Chapter, executive board member and political action chair of the Fort Worth NAACP.
  • Elvia McBride – Daughter of Dr. Riley Ransom Sr., the first Black surgeon in Fort Worth; community activist, historian, current resident in historic Terrell Heights, conducts tours of her historic home to all visitors.
  • Dr. Gwendolyn Morrison, educator – Has served as Tarrant County College District board trustee since 1976, has been recognized for her business, civic and social contributions in the Fort Worth area as well as her dedication to family and community.
  • Erma Bonner Platte – Wife of Tuskegee Airman Claude Platte; educator and artist whose paintings and sketches depict nature and Texas flowers, and whose portraits feature African Americans and African American life, mostly in Texas, during the late 19th century and early to mid-20th century.
  • Rhonda Pruitt – Co-owner and chief financial officer since 1994 of “La Vida News The Black Voice,” Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s oldest and largest circulated African American newspaper.
  • Sarah Walker – President emeritus of the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society for 22 years; hosted City of Fort Worth cable TV show, “They Showed the Way.”
  • Vivian Lewis Wells – After moving to Fort Worth, she was working as a home office clerk for Deliverer Life Insurance Company, the only Black owned and operated insurance company based in Fort Worth. Later, she became a licensed real estate agent and was instrumental in helping to form the Fort Worth Association of Real Estate Brokers, helping to create affordable housing, mainly in areas of Morningside, Rolling Hills, and Highland Hills.

Related Articles

Our Digital Sponsors

Latest Articles