92-year-old campaigns to make Juneteenth a national holiday

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- One woman who attended the Democratic debate in Houston Thursday is bringing a cause of her own.

Opal Lee is pushing efforts to make the Juneteenth celebration a national holiday.

Juneteenth, which is observed on June 19, celebrates the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all the remaining slaves in Texas in 1865.

"Juneteenth has been my passion for over 40 years," the 92-year-old Lee said. "There's no reason for it not to be a national holiday."

Lee is in town from Fort Worth and is hoping to talk with the candidates about her cause.

"I have no idea who's going to be president, so I'll just lobby all of them," she says.

Lee has traveled across the country, where she walks two and a half miles in each city she travels to, sharing her efforts for a national Juneteenth holiday. She walks to symbolize the two and a half years it took for the Emancipation Proclamation message to get to Texas, freeing slaves across the state.

To prepare, she walks a mile each morning. "At 92, I need to keep the legs and things going," Lee says.

She'll walk in Galveston on Saturday, where the proclamation was first read in Texas and where Juneteenth started. She'll walk from 2702 Seawall to the Juneteenth Historical Market at 22nd and Strand starting at 8 a.m. Saturday.

She says, "Juneteenth is a unifier. We've got to heal from this slavery business and get on with the work of a decent healthcare system and get our education system up to par."
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