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Opal Lee moves into rebuilt Fort Worth childhood home

Opal Lee, wearing a yellow shirt and surrounded by people applauding, is handed a key during a ceremony on the front porch of a grey house
Zara Amaechi
Eighty-five years after her childhood home was destroyed, Fort Worth activist Opal Lee is moving into a new house built on the same lot by HistoryMaker Homes.

Fort Worth’s “Grandmother of Juneteenth” is moving back to the site of her childhood home more than eight decades after it was vandalized.

On Friday, Opal Lee received the keys to a new home at 940 E. Annie, built on the same plot of land where her family’s home once stood. Almost 85 years ago exactly, on June 19, 1939, a racist mob upset that a Black family had moved into their neighborhood attacked and vandalized Lee’s house, forcing her family to flee.

“You don't let adversity knock you down," Lee said. "It might take some time, but the fact that on the same block we have built this beautiful house…I'm overjoyed."

Trinity Habitat for Humanity, Texas Capital and HistoryMaker Homes partnered to build the house and gift it to Lee. Habitat for Humanity organized the project after acquiring the site in January 2021. Texas Capital reached out to HistoryMaker Homes, which in 2023 joined the project to fund and construct the floor plan.

“We have the privilege of building a lot of homes, and every one of them is important,” HistoryMaker CEO Nelson Mitchell said. “But to do that for Dr. Lee, a monumental figure in our country, that's pretty special.”

Although the builders wanted Lee to enjoy her surprise, they invited her to HistoryMaker Homes’ design center to have a hand in construction by picking out all the furniture, flooring and fixtures she desired.

“Our team came out and wrote notes on the framing before it got covered up with sheet rock,” Mitchell said. “So that was real special to just have some encouraging words and blessings to write on the framing.”

Texas Capital also provided a grant to Lee’s nonprofit, Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity, which allowed her to furnish the house.

Lee is credited with getting Juneteenth established as a national holiday commemorating the end of slavery after the Civil War. Last month she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the highest civilian honor — for her work, which included walking from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., eight years ago.

Lee said she sees the house as an opportunity to make new memories to replace the dark past. The first thing she wants to do is invite her neighbors over for a big housewarming.

“I want to get to know them, and I hope we can work together to make some things better in our town,” Lee said.

Zara Amaechi is KERA’s Marjorie Welch Fitts Louis fellow covering race and social justice. Got a tip? Email Zara at You can follow her on X @amaechizara.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.

Zara was born in Croydon, England, and moved to Texas at eight years old. She grew up running track and field until her last year at the University of North Texas. She previously interned for D Magazine and has a strong passion for music history and art culture.