'Grandmother of Juneteenth' visits America's Black Holocaust Museum

Dr. Opal Lee – known as the "Grandmother of Juneteenth" – joined Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley and other community leaders at America's Black Holocaust Museum Friday morning, Feb. 24.

Lee, a Nobel Prize-nominated human rights advocate, is most known for her work getting Juneteenth recognized as a federal holiday.

"It is an honor to welcome Dr. Opal Lee to Milwaukee County during Black History Month," Crowley said in a statement. "Her work honors the history of Black citizens in this country, and Milwaukee County stands on her shoulders as one of the giants who’ve helped make it possible for us to pursue our vision of race and health equity."

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Friday, she toured America's Black Holocaust Museum and held a questions-and-answers session 

In 2016, at the age of 89, Lee walked 1,400 miles from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C. to do so – but said the holiday's importance lies in the work that still needs to be done.

America's Black Holocaust Museum

"It's important that we pass on to the younger children, let them know what things happened, so it doesn't happen again," Lee said. "If they just listen, if they just take it and go with it, because there's so many things that still need to be done."

Lee's work for Juneteenth has spanned five decades. She was in Washington when President Joe Biden signed the bill that made Juneteenth a federal holiday in 2021.

Free admission

To celebrate its one-year anniversary, America's Black Holocaust Museum is welcoming people free of charge Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 26 – sponsored by American Family Insurance.

After a 14-year hiatus, the museum returned in 2022 and things are going great. Cydney Key, the museum's director of operations, said it wouldn't be possible without the community's help.

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"This was something that was completely done by the support of the community, and a lot of these folks who wanted this museum to come back," Key said. "This is a treasure, a gem in our community, and it really means the world to have it come back."

The museum is open from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.