In 1939, Charles Stowe was on a mission to keep the Southside neighborhood he lived in white. He organized a local Anglo-Saxon committee that posted signs throughout that stated, “Negroes Take Notice. Don’t Move Into This Area!” and threatened white homeowners who planned to sell to Black families.

As white homeowners left, Black families —including Opal Lee’s — moved into Stowe’s neighborhood. On June 19, 1939, just three days after her family settled into East Annie Street, Lee’s home was destroyed in a fire set by a racist mob.

That pivotal night has driven Lee’s advocacy throughout a span of decades to make Juneteenth a national holiday. While Ms. Opal’s walks in major U.S. cities have gained the attention of national leaders, she continues to serve as an agent of change in her home city of Fort Worth. For over 45 years, Lee has ensured commemoration of Juneteenth in the city. Lee established and opened a Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth in 2005 to give the local community exposure to the history of the holiday. The museum was a featured location in the award-nominated Miss Juneteenth movie that premiered in 2019.

In an interview with NBC about the new national museum in Fort Worth, Lee said, “Oh I’m ecstatic. This new museum is going to be the talk of the town. Not just the town, the whole cotton-picking state. You wait and see.”

What will make this new museum the talk of the state? While Galveston is the historic city of the Juneteenth proclamation, North Texas served as a central part of the Southern Underground Railroad. The museum will feature exhibits on the region’s role in this frequently ignored part of history. Thousands of slaves escaped to Mexico through a network of cities in Texas.

A food hall focused on culturally Black cuisine, and a business incubator dedicated to promoting local entrepreneurship, are also slated to be built next to the museum. The ultimate goal is to make the museum and the businesses surrounding it Fort Worth’s center of Black culture.

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