Opal Lee, the 94-year-old known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” due to her tireless campaign to make the commemoration of the end of slavery in the U.S. a federal holiday, had an “off the chain” response to the realization of her dream on Thursday. Literally.
“I knew that the Senate had passed the bill, but I thought the House was going to take a lot longer. And to find out that both of them had and I’m on my way to Washington, D.C. and going to be in the White House?” Lee added, referring to the moment she watched President Joe Biden sign the bill into law.
“I don’t know how to describe it. I’m humbled by it, I truly am,” the activist said. “I’m so very, very grateful.”
Cuomo asked Lee, who undertook marathon hikes in a bid to bring attention to the cause, about some of the barriers she has faced. But she deflected the attention to others’ involvement in the campaign.
“It’s not just one little old lady in tennis shoes who wanted Juneteenth to be a national holiday,” she said, pointing to the work of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation founded by the late Dr. Ronald Myers.
“I have followed in his footsteps,” she said. “I’m so glad we’ve got it and so many people have worked at it, not just me. People all over have played their part to make Juneteenth a national holiday.”
Watch the interview here: