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Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn of the White House

Opal Lee speaks during a Juneteenth concert on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 13, 2023. | Source: The Washington Post / Getty

In today’s episode of If America Isn’t A Racist Country, How Did This Happen? a 97-year-old Black woman is getting a new home on the same plot of land her family had been driven from by a white mob 85 years ago.

Opal Lee was 12 years old when she and her siblings were sent away from their home in Fort Worth, Texas, after a white mob of some 500 people terrorized her family, vandalized the home and destroyed their property forcing the family to flee for their own safety—all because white people were angered at the existence of Black people in their proximity.

“Those people tore that place asunder,” Lee told NBC News.

Lee attended a wall-raising ceremony held at the site where her new home is being built Thursday. It’s expected that she will be able to move into the new home on June 19, which will also be the 85th anniversary of when her home and family was attacked by pure American racism and hatred in 1939.

“My God-fearing, praying parents worked extremely hard and they bought another home,” Lee said. “It didn’t stop them. They didn’t get angry and get frustrated, they simply knew that we had to have a place to stay and they got busy finding one for us.” She also said her parents never talked about what happened that day, and that she didn’t dwell on it much either.

“I really just think I just buried it,” she said.

From NBC:

In recent years though, she began thinking of trying to get the lot back. After learning that Trinity Habitat for Humanity had bought the land, Lee called its CEO and her longtime friend, Gage Yager.

Yager said it was not until that call three years ago when Lee asked if she could buy the lot that he learned the story of what happened to her family on June 19, 1939.

“I’d known Opal for an awfully long time but I didn’t know anything about that story,” Yager said.

After he made sure the lot was not already promised to another family, he called Lee and told her it would be hers for $10. He said at the wall-raising ceremony that it was heartening to see a mob of people full of love gathered in the place where a mob full of hatred had once gathered.

I shouldn’t be lost on anyone that the date her home was attacked and the date she’s expected to be moving into a home on the same land coincide with Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the U.S. In fact, according to NBC, Lee was heavily involved in the process of making Juneteenth a federal holiday, which earned her the unofficial title of “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”

It also shouldn’t be lost on anyone the decades upon decades that it takes to reconcile America’s racist past. On Monday, we reported that Pvt. Albert King, a Black soldier with the U.S. Army who was shot and killed in 1941 by a white sergeant all because he was allegedly loud and boisterous on a segregated bus full of mostly white passengers, has finally given a military funeral after being denied it over the lie that he was responsible for his own death, and after being buried in an unmarked grave in Georgia for more than 80 years.

Opal Lee is nearly a full century old now that the land her family was driven from is being returned to her, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface of bringing her true restoration or justice.

This is still America.


The One Story: The Journey To Juneteenth

Finding And Losing Juneteenth

Opal Lee, 97, To Finally Get New Home On Land That White Mob Drove Her Family From 85 Years Ago  was originally published on