92-year-old kicks off Juneteenth awareness walk in Detroit

A 92-year-old is on a mission to make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance. 

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, dating back to June 19, 1865. On that day, Union soldiers came into Texas with the news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free -- two and a half years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. 

Opal Lee of Fort Worth, Texas is walking across the nation to bring awareness to her campaign for Juneteenth to be a National Day of Observance. 

"Now, 46 states have it as a state holiday and there's no reason for it not to be a national holiday," she said.

Opal kicked off her movement Monday night in Detroit's Hart Plaza. 

Just days ago Detroit hosted the 110th NAACP National Convention, and on Tuesday and Wednesday night will host CNN's Democratic presidential debate. Opal felt Detroit was the best place to kick off her 2020 campaign to get the legislation passed. 

Monday night, she and Detroiters walked from Hart Plaza along the Riverwalk through downtown to the historic Second Baptist Church.

"We were trying to get ahead of the hopefuls that will be speaking [Tuesday and Wednesday] and we were trying to get some coverage in hoping that they would dare to mention Juneteenth as one of the things the nation needs to know about, that it needs to be a national holiday," Opal told us of the 20 Democratic presidential candidates that will be participating in the debate. 

Opal says she plans to walk 2.5 miles in the morning and 2.5 miles at night to symbolize that slaves in Texas didn't know they were free until two and a half years after everyone else knew it.

"But the thing of it is, none of us are free until we are all free. And there are so many inequities that need to be addressed," she said.

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Back in 2016, Opal also walked to get the attention of Congress and President Obama before he left office about Juneteenth. 

She's planning to launch a Change.org petition this fall to make Juneteenth a National Day of Observance. You can get more information on that and on her campaign online here