The true story of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation’s creed of “freedom for all.”
Every year, Opal looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic—a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak’s stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865—over two years after the president had declared it! But Opal didn’t always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day when Opal was twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn’t freedom at all. She had to do something! Opal Lee spent the rest of her life speaking up for equality and unity. She became a teacher, a charity worker, and a community leader. At the age of 89, she walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to gain national recognition for Juneteenth.
Through the story of Opal Lee’s determination and persistence, children ages 4 to 8 will learn:
all people are created equal
the power of bravery and using your voice for change
the history of Juneteenth, or Freedom Day, and what it means today
no one is free unless everyone is free
fighting for a dream is worth every difficulty
Featuring the illustrations of New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo (I am Enough), Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free celebrates the life and legacy of a modern-day Black leader while sharing a message of hope, unity, joy, and strength.
What Kind of Book is Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth
Alice Faye Duncan is the author of several books, including the classic NAACP Award–nominated board book, Honey Baby Sugar Child, and Just Like a Mama. Ms. Duncan is a school librarian in Memphis, Tennessee, and conducts writing workshops for parents and educators. Her latest picture book, Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop, received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.
Keturah A. Bobo is an artist whose dedication to creating vibrant images that depict diversity has gained her attention worldwide. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Ohio with her family of entrepreneurs. She is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of I Am Enough. Visit www.keturahariel.com.
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