85 years after Opal Lee’s family was driven out by a racist mob, they’re getting a new home in the same spot


FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – When opal lee When she was 12, a racist mob drove her family out of their home in Texas. Now, the 97-year-old community activist is getting closer to moving into a brand new home on the same tree-lined corner in Fort Worth.

“I’m not a person who sheds tears very often, but I have a few people for this project,” said Lee, who was one of the driving forces behind it. Juneteenth to become a national holiday,

A wall-raising ceremony was held at the site on Thursday, with Lee joining others in raising the first wall structure. The home is expected to be ready by June 19 – a holiday that marks the end of slavery in America, which means a lot to Lee.

This June 19 will also be the 85th anniversary of the day a mob, angry about a black family living there, began gathering outside the house his parents had just purchased. As the crowd grew, his parents sent him and his siblings to a friend’s house several blocks away and eventually moved in themselves.

Newspaper articles at the time said that a mob of about 500 people broke the windows of the house and dragged furniture out into the street and broke it.

“They destroyed the place,” Lee said.

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Her family never returned home, she said, and her parents never talked about what happened that day.

“My God-fearing, praying parents worked very hard and they bought another house,” he said. Wait and they got busy finding one for us.

She said it was not something she focused on. “I really think I just buried it,” she said.

However, in recent years, she started thinking about trying to get the lot back. After learning that Trinity Habitat for Humanity had purchased the land, Lee called its CEO and his longtime friend, Gage Yager.

Yager said it was only after that call three years ago, in which Lee asked if she could buy the items, that she learned the story of what happened to her family on June 19, 1939.

“I knew Opal for a very long time but I didn’t know anything about that story,” Yaeger said.

After making sure no other family had already been promised the lot, he called Lee and told him it could be his for $10. Speaking at the wall-raising ceremony, he said it was heartening to see a crowd full of love gathering at a place where a crowd full of hatred had once gathered.

In recent years, Lee has become known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” after spending years rallying people to join the successful effort to make June 19 a national holiday. The former school district teacher and a consultant has been working tirelessly in her hometown of Fort Worth for decades, including establishing a large community garden.

At the ceremony Thursday, HistoryMaker Homes CEO Nelson Mitchell told Lee: “You show us how much of a difference one person can make.”

Mitchell’s company is building the home at no cost to Lee, while the philanthropic arm of Texas Capital, a financial services company, is providing funding to furnish the home.

Lee said she is looking forward to moving to the new home from the house she has lived in for more than half a century.

“I know my mom will be smiling, and my dad. He’ll think: ‘Okay, we finally did it,'” she said.

“I just want people to understand that you don’t give up,” Lee said. I wanted it to be ours again.”

Associated Press journalist Kendrea LaFleur contributed to this report.

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