Fort Worth’s own Opal Lee is one of hundreds that’ve been nominated. The Peace Prize recipients will be announced on Friday, Ms. Lee’s 96th birthday.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Imagine it being your 96th birthday and you find out that you’ll be receiving a Nobel Prize to credit your years of hard work and dedication towards something you’re passionate about.
That dream could be a reality on Friday for Fort Worth’s own Opal Lee. She’s known all over as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” for her efforts to have the holiday recognized nationally.
Ms. Lee has already made her mark on the world over the years. She was there when President Biden signed for Juneteenth to become a federal holiday.
But being a Nobel Peace Prize recipient would be an honor not only for her, but for the city of Fort Worth and Texas as a whole.
Here’s a recap about Opal Lee, Juneteenth and the process for her to (possibly) become a Peace Prize laureate:
Juneteenth marks the day the last group of enslaved people were told that they were free.
President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, declaring freedom for “all persons held as slaves.”
According to the National Archives, the proclamation didn’t explicitly end slavery in the the nation. In fact, it only applied to states that seceded from the U.S. and hadn’t already been under Northern control.
News of the proclamation didn’t get to enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, until June 19, 1865. According to the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Union General Gordon Granger was the one that told them about their freedom.
African-Americans have celebrated Juneteenth for ages, especially in Texas, but it wasn’t considered an official U.S. holiday until 2021.
Who is Opal Lee?
Opal Lee is the major force behind Juneteenth’s national recognition. She pushed for that for more than a decade, making her the “Grandmother of Juneeteenth”
Then, at age 90, she took the 1,400-mile walk from her Fort Worth home to Washington D.C. to bring national awareness. She still holds annual 2.5-mile walk in honor of the 2.5 years it took for enslaved Texans to learn about their freedom.
Why has her story resonated so much?
Lee has been the driving force behind the push that ultimately resulted in Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday. And her roots as a civil rights activist go back decades.
In her younger years, Lee helped organize the city’s Juneteenth celebration and used it as a fundraiser for local nonprofits.
As a child, her family home was attacked by a mob of white supremacists. The day of the attack was on June 19, 1939 – Juneteenth.
“If we had an opportunity to show them what neighbors could be like, that wouldn’t have happened,” Lee told WFAA in 2021.
What’s the process to winning a Nobel Peace Prize?
Anyone can get nominated as long as the person nominating them is qualified to do so. You can check out that criteria here.
The nominations are sent between September and the end of January. The Norwegian Nobel Committee then spends a month making a short list of candidates based on their work.
An adviser reviews the list from March to August, then the laureates are chosen in early October. The Peace Prize laureates don’t get their prize until December at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway.
Ms. Opal is one of 343 candidates that are in the running for the Nobel Peace Prize: 251 individuals and 92 organizations. No one’s supposed to know about any of the nominees for another 50 years unless they win, but some people have already been publicly named as nominees.
In January, U.S. Congressman Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth) released the letter that Congress sent to the Nobel Prize committee in support of Lee’s nomination. Read the full letter here.
The Nobel Peace Prize organization will announce the winner Friday at 4 a.m. Texas time. The award will be announced during a press conference in Oslo, Norway.
What will Opal Lee do with the prize money if she wins?
The Nobel Prize amount for 2022 is 10 million Swedish kronor, which us about $900,000 in U.S. dollars.
In the WFAA documentary special with Ms. Opal, told us what she plans to do with some of the money.
“This lady in Uganda, she’s 40 years old. She’s had 44 children by the same husband,” said Lee. “I plan to take container homes fully equipped to Uganda, about eight of them for she and her 30 children.”
How can you watch the Nobel Prize announcements?
The Nobel Prize organization will livestream the announcements Friday morning, beginning at 3:45 a.m. Texas time. Here is the YouTube stream: