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Man Honors Harriet Tubman, Walks Over 400 Miles Along Underground Railroad

Kenneth Johnston, 61, finished his excursion on Saturday at the same Canadian church that Harriet Tubman once attended.
Man Honors Harriet Tubman, Walks Over 400 Miles Along Underground Railroad
courtesy of Ken Johnston

In honor of Harriet Tubman’s 200th birthday, a West Philadelphia man walked more than 400 miles along the Underground Railroad.

Starting in July, Kenneth Johnston, 61, walked from New York to Canada to pay tribute to the American abolitionist, according to NBC News. Johnston’s first stop was the Harriet Tubman Memorial in Harlem, New York. He traveled on through the Hudson River Valley, across central New York. On Saturday, the self-described “walking artist” finished his journey at the Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, which Tubman attended when she lived there between 1851 and 1861.

Along the way, Johnston had the privilege to meet Judith Bryant, Tubman’s great-great grandniece, reported NBC News.

“It helped me connect to Harriet Tubman even more in her life by meeting her descendants,” Johnston told the outlet.

The “walking artist” is not new to the art of long-distance walking. According to a press release from Johnston in 2018, he successfully completed a 400-mile solo walking journey across the Deep South. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, he trekked from Selma, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee, visiting the many places Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. either worked, pastored, or led peaceful protests. In 2019 replicated Tubman’s journey to rescue her brothers in 1854. He walked 140 miles along the shores of the Choptank River in Maryland to Philadelphia in six weeks.

Tubman, however, completed the journey in only four days.

“I have so much respect for Harriet Tubman and just how far and how much of herself she gave to rescue so many people over 800 miles from Maryland’s Eastern Shore,” Johnston told Philadelphia Inquirer.

Johnston has also taken his work internationally. He has walked across Ireland symbolically linking its short-lived civil rights movement with the U.S. He also walked across Puerto Rico on the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria following the trajectory of the devastating storm’s path. 

Johnston will take a break before his next excursion. A slave trail stretching over 1,000 miles from Alexandria, Virginia to New Orleans is in his sights though.