We just got our first glimpse at renderings for the new National Juneteenth Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The museum will tell the story behind Juneteenth and Opal Lee — the 95-year-old Fort Worth woman who spearheaded the movement to make June 19 a national holiday.
A Dream Come True
The museum will be on the city’s historic southside and will preserve and celebrate Juneteenth while also educating guests on the significance of the holiday and the movement behind it. Construction is expected to begin on the 50,000-square-foot museum next year, with plans for exhibits, discussions, and live events.
“Seeing the national museum moving forward is a dream fulfilled,” says Lee, who is also a founding board member for the National Juneteenth Museum. “I’ve had a little Juneteenth Museum in that very spot for almost 20 years, and to see it become a central place for discussion, collaboration and learning seems to be the providential next step — from my walking campaign to Washington, D.C., the petition, and having Juneteenth declared a federal holiday. It’s mind-boggling, but I’m glad to see it all come to pass.”
Lead designer BIG-Bjark Ingels Group is partnering with North Texas-based, African American-owned KAI Enterprises on the design.
“Our hope is that this building will become a gateway to the Historic Southside community of Fort Worth while serving as a national and global destination,” says Douglass Alligood, Partner, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “Juneteenth is not only American history — it is world history.”
Why It’s So Personal For Opal Lee
Texas was the last state in the Union to outlaw slavery. Even though the Emancipation Proclamation made the practice illegal in 1863, word didn’t reach slaves in Texas until 2 years later — on June 19th, 1865.
The day has been celebrated as “Juneteenth” ever since. But Lee, who calls Fort Worth home, made it a personal mission to see the day observed as a federal holiday. For decades, she has led 2.5-mile walks through the United States to raise awareness, representing the 2.5 years it took for news of freedom to reach slaves in Texas. In 2016, Lee — who was then 89 years old — led a walk from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C to lobby President Barack Obama to declare Juneteenth a federal holiday. In June 2021, she got her wish.