Abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in New York in March 1822. She became a staple in American history after leading dozens of enslaved people to freedom by using a network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
This year marks 200 years since her birth. To honor Tubman’s legacy, a 61-year-old man from Philadelphia named Kenneth Johnston decided to retrace her historical steps — over 400 miles of them. According to NBC News, Johnston’s journey began in July. The dedicated history buff began in New York. He completed his mission on Saturday (Sept. 10) at the Salem Chapel British Methodist Episcopal Church in St. Catharines, Ontario.
Sources say Tubman attended the church frequently when she lived in the area between 1851 and 1861. “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,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer by phone over the weekend.
“The last 3 miles today, it got very, very warm. It was hot .… But I was pretty exhausted when I got here,” he shared with the outlet. Although Johnston noted that the journey was tiring, he was honored to experience a small piece of what Tubman endured. “It’s really exciting to make the complete journey she traveled,” he added.
Johnston revealed that during his trek, he was able to meet Tubman’s great-great-grandniece Judith Bryant. “It helped me connect to Harriet Tubman even more in her life by meeting her descendants,” he said. This wasn’t the Philadelphia resident’s first time retracing Tubman’s steps. In December 2019, he recreated one of her four-day walks from the Choptank River in Maryland to Philadelphia. He later took a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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