joy of juneteenth presentation 169

The Joy of Juneteenth brings Dr. Opal Lee to the City of Huntsville to discuss the history and significance of celebrating the anniversary of the day General Gordon Granger proclaimed the emancipation of enslaved people in Texas.

Known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” Dr. Opal Lee was present on June 17, 2021, when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, thereby establishing June 19, or “Juneteenth,” as a federal holiday. Ms. Lee said, on that day, “Now we can celebrate freedom from the 19th of June to the 4th of July!”

Opal Lee was born in Marshall, Texas in 1926 and moved to Fort Worth, Texas in 1937. On June 19, 1939, at the age of 12, her family’s home was destroyed. Neither she nor her family allowed this to deter them from making an impact in their community. Ms. Lee has served on many boards and with many organizations, including Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity, Habitat for Humanity, and the Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society—an organization dedicated to preserving the history of Fort Worth’s Black populace. During her tenure as Chairman of the Community Food Bank, the organization received the 1.3-million-dollar 33,000 square foot facility that now serves 500 families per day.

Ms. Lee is the oldest living board member of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, a national movement started by the late Dr. Ronald Myers to have Juneteenth declared a National Holiday. At 90 years of age, to bring awareness to the need for celebrating Juneteenth nationally, Ms. Lee began a walking campaign from Fort Worth, TX to Washington, D.C. She walked 2.5 miles in cities across the country to represent the 2.5 years it took after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation for enforcement to reach Texas and free the enslaved. In 2019, Ms. Lee launched an online petition campaign that garnered over 1.6 million signatures to continue the crusade for holiday observance. Earlier this year, Texas Congressman Marc Veasey and 33 other members of Congress nominated Ms. Lee for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for her work to “advance understanding and respect between individuals of different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.”

During her visit to Huntsville, Ms. Lee will meet with dignitaries from across the city, attend a church service at St. John AME; sign copies of her book, Juneteenth: A Children’s Story, at Oakwood University; read her book to students at a local public elementary school; tour the campus of Alabama A&M University; and participate in a public dialogue on the campus of The University of Alabama in Huntsville. The book signing and public dialogue are free and open to the public. Other events are closed or by invitation only.

The Joy of Juneteenth is sponsored by the UAH Humanities Center, and in partnership with United Women of Color. Collaborators for Ms. Lee’s visit also include Alabama A&M University, the City of Huntsville, Highlands Elementary PTA, Madison County Commission District 6, Oakwood University, St. John AME Church, UAH Music, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.


Sunday, August 28

Location: St. John AME Church

Time: 10:00 AM

Masks and temperature checks are required for admission to the sanctuary.

Ms. Lee, Deaconess at Baker Chapel AME in Fort Worth, Texas, will attend church service. St. John AME streams their services on their Facebook page.


Location: Moran Hall Auditorium (Oakwood University)

Time: 3:00 PM

This event is free, open to the public, accessible, and child-friendly. Masks are required.

Meet Ms. Lee, and have her sign a copy of her children’s book, Juneteenth: A Children’s Story. The first 100 attendees will receive a free copy of Ms. Lee’s book as a gift from the UAH Humanities Center. (Other giveaways also will be available.)


Monday, August 29

Location: Highlands Elementary School (Huntsville City Schools)

Time: 9:00 AM

This is a closed event, with streaming access available online.

Ms. Lee will read her book, Juneteenth: A Children’s Story, to students as part of Highlands Elementary PTA’s ongoing—and nationally recognized—literacy initiative.


Location: Knight Center (Alabama A&M University)

Time: 11:00 AM

This is a closed event.

Ms. Lee will tour the campus of Huntsville’s oldest Historically Black College and University, founded in 1875.


Location: Charger Union Theater (The University of Alabama in Huntsville)

Time: 6:00 PM

This event is free, open to the public, accessible, and child-friendly.

Hear Ms. Lee discuss the history and significance of Juneteenth, and pick up some free souvenirs from the UAH Humanities Center. Doors open at 5:30 PM. WAFF’s Margo Gray will moderate, and the City of Huntsville will make a special announcement.


For more information on The Joy of Juneteenth event, contact:

Dr. Nicholaos Jones, UAH Humanities Center Director, or 256-824-2338

Ms. Angela Curry, United Women of Color Executive Director or 256-384-4933