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Local Juneteenth Museum to be Revamped


Opal Lee | Image by County Line Magazine

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As Americans get ready to celebrate the second anniversary of Juneteenth as a national holiday, plans are underway for Fort Worth’s new National Juneteenth Museum.

The 50,000-square-foot museum will tell the history of Juneteenth, a special day in Texas’ history. On June 19, 1865, more than two years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Union soldiers informed enslaved black people in Galveston that they were free. This day is now known as Juneteenth.

Local Fort Worth resident Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth,” advocated for decades to make the Texas holiday Juneteenth a national holiday. Her efforts were realized last year when President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day bill into law. Opal Lee was standing by his side for the signing ceremony on June 17, 2021.

Dione Sims, Lee’s granddaughter, is leading the charge to create the new Juneteenth museum where the old one stands on the city’s southside, on land donated by her 95-year-old grandmother.

“This is the current museum. It has seen better days, for sure,” Sims recently told CBS News’ Nicole Killion as they toured the aging facility.

KAI Enterprises, based in Fort Worth, and Big-Bjarke Ingels Group, the project’s lead designer, collaborated on the project.

Based on the artist’s renderings, the new facility will have a copper gable roof, alluding to the neighborhood’s past, with a nova star sitting atop its peak to represent a bright future. Floor-to-ceiling windows will welcome everyone to come and learn about this special day.

The inside will be a mixed-use space consisting of a public recording studio, a food hall, a 251-seat theater, and an exhibit space.

“Our vision and our mission is to help the nation and the world find themselves in the Juneteenth story,” Sims said. “So you’ve got Quakers who risked their families, their position to help folks escape to the North. You had abolitionists — William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass — that worked together,” she said. “There were a multitude of ethnicities that wanted to help free the enslaved… So we’re trying to let everybody see that Juneteenth isn’t just an African American story. It’s a story about freedom.”

An exhibit will tell Opal Lee’s story as well. In the 1930s, a mob burned down her home when she was 12 years old. Lee’s story will be just part of a timeline that will include the stories of each state’s connection to Juneteenth.

Currently, funds and donations are being raised to make the $70,000 National Juneteenth Museum come to fruition. The goal is to break ground on Juneteenth, 2024.

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