In lieu of the traditional Juneteenth parade this year, Fort Worth residents have an opportunity to participate in a historic event: a 2.5-mile caravan through downtown Fort Worth to commemorate freedom from slavery.
Community activist Opal Lee will lead the event at 9 a.m. June 19. At 93 years old, Lee will continue her walking campaign to make Juneteenth a national day of observance. With 47 states officially recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, Lee believes now is the time for national recognition to occur.
Residents can follow behind Lee from the Fort Worth Convention Center, 1201 Houston St., to Will Rogers Coliseum. Participants are encouraged to decorate their vehicles to show support.
“I believe Juneteenth can be a unifier because it recognizes that slaves didn’t free themselves and that they had help, from Quakers along the Underground Railroad, abolitionists both black and white like Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, soldiers and many others who gave their lives for the freedom of the enslaved,” Lee said.
Walking to raise awareness is not new to Lee. She started a campaign to walk to Washington, D.C., in 2016 and relaunched it in 2019 to bring awareness to the fact that there is support for the Juneteenth holiday all across this nation.View a brief video about Opal’s Walk.
Several states have now adopted Juneteenth as a holiday.
New York’s governor signed an executive order Wednesday recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will propose legislation next year making June 19 a permanent state holiday. Such a bill is already before the legislature.
“It is a day we should all reflect upon. It is a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history,” Cuomo said.
Several states already observe Juneteenth, which has its historical roots in Texas, the first state to make it a state holiday in 1980.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was effective Jan. 1, 1863, but the news took time to travel. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when word of the proclamation was brought by the Union army to enslaved people in Galveston, making them among the last to be freed.
Virginia’s governor proposed making Juneteenth a state holiday there earlier this week.
Many Juneteenth events go virtual
Several Fort Worth organizations will be honoring Juneteenth with a variety of activities. Keep in mind, with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing concerns, large gatherings that have traditionally been held have been canceled. Some events will be virtual with livestreaming and broadcasts.