Opal Lee to move back to the site of her childhood home, burned by a white mob 85 years ago

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, it took over two years for the last slaves to be freed by the Union army (1865) and another 156 years for that historic day to be commemorated formally as Juneteenth—an effort led by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr. Opal Lee, whose patience has always been something to revere. In 1939, at age 12, Lee watched as an angry white mob burned her family home to the ground. Now, 85 years later, Lee’s lifelong dream to reclaim the Fort Worth, Texas, property has come true.

Last week a “wall raising” ceremony was held at the site 940 East Annie Street to kick start the construction of a humble abode for Lee, who purchased her family’s property from Trinity Habitat for Humanity for just $10. Funding and the manpower to build the house has been generously provided by Texas Capital and local home builder HistoryMaker Homes—at no cost to Lee.

cutting wood at opal lee house
A “wall raising” ceremony took place last week. (Courtesy Trinity Habitat for Humanity)

“We’re here to partner with a friend to build a home and in a little way erase a big negative from all those years ago,” said Gage Yager, CEO of Trinity Habitat for Humanity at last week’s event.

During a recent visit to the HistoryMaker Homes design center, Lee picked out flooring, fixtures, and lighting for her future residence, which she will, not coincidentally, move into on Juneteenth.

interior rendering of opal lee house
Lee picked out the flooring and fixtures for her new home. (Courtesy Trinity Habitat for Humanity)

“Oh, listen, all I’m bringing from my other house is my toothbrush,” Lee joked.

Renderings of the house depict a single-story residence with a pitched roof and clapboard siding. Four brick pillars line the front entrance where a small porch is located. Car parking is located in the rear. Inside, an open-plan layout allots the kitchen, dining, and living room into one spacious area. The house also features a bedroom with plenty of natural light and a study with built-in cabinets and bookshelves.

Lee’s house is located just a few blocks from the forthcoming National Juneteenth Museum, a cultural institution dedicated to the legacy and history of the holiday, that much like her family’s house represents a long-term vision coming to fruition many many years later. For two decades Lee managed a small museum out of a house at the corner of Rosedale Street and Evans Avenue in Fort Worth. A fire destroyed the building in January 2023, however, most of the artifacts had already been removed for inclusion in the new facility.

wood framing of house
Lee will move into the house on June 19, 2024—the Juneteenth holiday. (Courtesy Trinity Habitat for Humanity)

The new National Juneteenth Museum, slated to open in 2025, is being designed by Bjarke Ingels Group and KAI Enterprises.

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