Opal Lee has been gifted her childhood home nearly 80 years after a racist mob chased her family out of it, per WFAA. The Texas activist is widely known for her efforts toward making Juneteenth a national holiday.
Trinity Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit dedicated to building and repairing homes for families, gave Lee a piece of HERstory back!
The History Of Opal Lee’s Fort Worth Home
The lot is located in Fort Worth, Texas, where Opal grew up. Lee, now 97, was only 12 years old when her family moved into a newly purchased house on the lot. That was on June 15, 1939.
At the time, her Fort Worth neighborhood consisted of all white people. Opal Lee’s family was one of the first African American families to move into the neighborhood during a time when racial segregation was widespread.
The house was a symbol of hope and progress for the family. However, this symbol was violently shattered on June 19.
On that day, which we now celebrate as Juneteenth, a white mob of 500 reportedly showed up at the family’s doorstep. According to WFAA, police “stood by and watched” as Lee’s family was forced out of the home. The mob then trashed the home and set the family’s belongings on fire, per reports of the encounter.
This horrific experience would later spark Lee’s lifelong commitment to fight for racial justice and equality.
Trinity Habitat For Humanity Acquired The Land And Built A New Home
Trinity Habitat for Humanity had purchased the vacant lot on 940 East Annie Street. Then, Opal Lee rang the non-profit’s CEO, Gage Yager.
Opal and Gage have reportedly known each other for decades. Lee even served on the organization’s founding board.
During their call, Lee revealed that Trinity Habitat for Humanity now owned the lot her former childhood home stood on. She asked Gage to purchase the lot from the organization. Instead, Gage insisted they’d gift it to her.
Not only that, Gage also offered to build Opal Lee a new home on the vacant lot. Opal told WFAA the generous gift made her feel like doing “a holy dance.”
In early September, the non-profit Opal and some of her closest friends celebrated her birthday by breaking ground on the lot.
The awarding of her childhood home is a pretty fitting tribute to Lee, a figure who has dedicated her life to fighting for racial justice.
“We’re there to partner with a friend to build a home and in a little way erase a big negative from all those years ago,” Yager continued. “How can it not be, with all the hate and violence that’s been out there … to play a small part in a bigger story and hopefully a narrative that’s going in a good direction.”
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