In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
Many think Lincoln’s order freed all enslaved people. But it only applied to states that had seceded from the U.S.
In those states, freeing enslaved people on paper didn’t necessarily translate to real life. Many rebellious states resisted Lincoln’s order, including Texas.
Texans have kept Juneteenth alive for generations. Opal Lee grew up celebrating it in Marshall, Texas.
Lee campaigned for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday for decades.
Unity, freedom is what Juneteenth is all about. So I decided that I would walk from Fort Worth to Washington D.C., doing two and a half miles in the morning and two and a half in the afternoon to symbolize that in Texas, the enslaved didn’t know they were free for two and a half years after everybody else.
Juneteenth doesn’t feel fixed like July 4th. July 4th feels fixed in 1776, whereas Juneteenth always feels fluid and always willing to be adaptable to the incoming and upcoming generations. It always feels relevant to this continuous quest and fight for freedom and equality.