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Opal Lee receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

Dr. Opal Lee, the longtime activist known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” accepted the country’s highest civilian honor on Friday.

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President Joe Biden congratulates Dr. Opal Lee upon the receipt of her Medal of Freedom.

Photo via @whitehouse

Opal Lee added another accolade to her resume last week — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The 97-year-old Fort Worthian was recognized with the country’s highest civilian honor for her efforts to make Juneteenth a federally recognized holiday.

Lee, affectionately known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” was among 19 recipients recognized for their “exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors.”

In 2016, Lee walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth to Washington D.C. to garner recognition for June 19, which marked the end of slavery in Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. In 2021, she stood by President Joe Biden’s side when he made Juneteenth a federal holiday + currently is a leading force in the creation of the National Juneteenth Museum.

Other civil rights activists to be honored with the Medal of Freedom include Clarence B. Jones, who helped pen Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and Medgar Evers, recognized posthumously for his fight against segregation in Mississippi.