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A national Juneteeth Museum is coming to Fort Worth

Opal Lee sits down while holding a pen, surrounded by a group of people including President Joe Biden.
Evan Vucci
Associated Press
People take photos as Opal Lee holds a pen and is seated where President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, June 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Fort Worth's historic Southside neighborhood will soon be home to a national museum commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.

Fort Worth is touting the new museum as the “epicenter for preservation of Juneteenth history.”

Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said it will be part of a mixed-use development that will help revitalize the Southside neighborhood.

“The great part about the project honestly is that it’s community-driven,” Parker said. “The city will really do whatever it takes to make the project come to fruition, whatever help they may need, but personally I love that it’s been Opal Lee at the center of it, to make it all come together.”

Opal Lee is fondly referred to as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.” The 94-year-old spent decades advocating for federal recognition of the holiday.

Her wish came true last year, when President Biden declared June 19 a federal holiday. But Lee said her work is not over yet.

“If we got the nation's attention, then we're going to try to keep it because there's so many disparities,” Lee said in a previous interview with KERA News. “We need to know and heal this war, because it still exists — the racism, the killing, all those things. [They’re] leftovers from slavery and the need to be eradicated.”

The pen Biden used to sign the law will be one of the artifacts housed in the new museum, along with those Lee has had on display in her Fort Worth Juneteenth Museum for nearly two decades.

The new museum will also be built on the same land Lee's museum currently sits on.

The roughly $30 million museum is expected to be finished in early 2024.

Lee on Thursday spoke in Fort Worth at Texas Wesleyan University, which presented her with an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Lee said she’s looking forward to the museum.

“You can’t believe the things — a national Juneteenth museum that all 50 states can bring stuff to?” she said. “I think we think we're gonna be like the Smithsonian!”

Lee said that Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch, who was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, has been asked to offer advice on the Fort Worth museum effort.

KERA's Galilee Abdullah contributed to this report.

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Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

Rebekah Morr is KERA's All Things Considered newscaster and producer. She came to KERA from NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she worked as a news assistant at Weekend All Things Considered.