Fort Worth

Despite setback, Opal Lee’s Juneteenth march to D.C. continues

Time ran out on Opal Lee’s online petition to get Juneteenth designated as a national day of observance, but the effort isn’t over until her symbolic march gets to Washington, D.C.

Lee, an educator and civil-rights activist who turns 90 on Oct. 7, has been making a “symbolic” 1,400-mile walk to Washington with an online petition to the White House and a grassroots social media campaign that urges the public to understand the significance of Juneteenth. People can get updates on her journey on her website,

The clock ran out on the petition, which was underway when she started walking on Sept. 1.

“That one expired because we weren’t at a 100,000,” said Dione Sims, manager of Lee’s grassroots campaign. “Whether we have 100,000 signatures or not, she is still walking. Her goal is to get an audience with the president to ask him why [Juneteenth] hasn’t been made” a national day of observance.

Organizers of started a new petition on Tuesday. The new petition needs 100,000 signatures by Oct. 27 to get a response from the White House. As of Wednesday afternoon, 11 people had signed.

On Wednesday, Lee was back in Fort Worth checking in with her doctors and delivering food for the hungry, Sims said.

Lee’s walk has evolved into an effort that takes her to various cities where she will participate in “symbolic walks” and with Juneteenth celebration organizers. She will rely on different modes of transportation to get to her walking points.

On Friday, Lee picks up her walk in Mississippi. Later, she goes to Birmingham and Tuskegee, Ala.

Sims said she has received much feedback and has been interviewed by many news outlets.

“More people are picking up the story,” said Sims, adding that this might result in more signatures.

June 19, 1865, was the day a Union officer brought General Order No. 3, which detailed the freedom of slaves. Slaves in Texas received word of that order two months after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered and two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Diane A. Smith: 817-390-7675, @dianeasmith1