Why these girls simply walked Harriet Tubman’s 116-mile journey from the Underground Railroad

The children’s book, published in 1965, tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s courageous ministry leading many enslaved people to freedom between 1850 and 1860 through a secret society and a safe house called the Underground Railroad.

When Harris read it again, a picture book decades ago touched him deeply.

Harris, 65, who lives in Mitchellville, said: “I just felt like my rights were being taken away, because of the epidemic and injustice.” The book also called for action, action. “

He decided to go where Tubman was born, and go to the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Dorchester County, Md. He spoke to local historians, who shared information about Tubman’s life, first as a slave, then as a “Subcontroller,” and finally, as a human rights activist and advocate for a group of suffrage women.

Harris got the idea: He wanted to follow Tubman’s footsteps on the Underground Railroad, walking from Cambridge, Md., To Kennett Square, Pa. – about 116 miles.

“I wanted to emulate his approach,” Harris said.

But he did not want him to do it himself. Harris hopes to find others who also want to connect with this long period of peace. She shared the activity on various Facebook pages, including GirlTrek and Outdoor Afro – organizations that aim to connect people of all backgrounds to the gym.

Harris formed a group of eight non-foreign women, aged between 38 and 65. The women, who all live in the DC area, live every Saturday in the late summer and summer together.

“We had to learn to walk long distances and be brave,” Harris said, adding that the women connected quickly.

Pauline Heard-Dunn, 57, said: “We are really sisters. Our trip gave me something to look forward to. It gives me meaning, and I see it as a way to keep in touch with my parents.”

“My relationship with these women is forever,” said Kim Smith, 56. “There’s a magnetic field between us. We’ve been encouraged to keep going.”

In their training, the women worked to discover Tubman’s approach, which was much more complicated than they had originally expected. Harris went to Cambridge several times, as well as other parts of Caroline County, to try Tubman’s method as best he could.

He heard that Tubman’s actual crossing on the shores of Lake Maryland on the Eastern Shore was not clear. In most of Tubman’s travels, he is known to have traveled from Dorchester County via Delaware and eventually to Philadelphia, where he was a free agent. He survived alone for the first time, but later led several missionaries on the same route, risking his life to protect some 70 of the exiles.

According to Tubman’s record, “Preparing for the Promised Land,” Maryland listed 279 former slaves as refugees in 1850 – more than any other country in the country.

Harris interviewed William Jarmon, a volunteer at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center for more than a decade. He showed her a place in the history of the 125-kilometer Tubman Byway, a self-contained tour operated by a museum, made up of 36 stands.

“We helped him find out about his trip,” Jarmon said, adding that there has been a great deal of interest in the building in recent months.

Harris also reached out to JOK Walsh, President of the Caroline County Historical Society, who conducted extensive research on the Tubman route through Caroline County to Kent County, Del.

“I checked the old maps to try to put where they were going. We saw where the roads were and we made a map,” Walsh said.

“We knew that Harriet needed to avoid places and bridges where slave owners were known to live,” Walsh continued. “We used all of this and we were able to think we were very educated.”

Walsh provided Harris with information from a Philadelphia man, Ken Johnston, who had approached him a few months earlier, also hoping to follow in Tubman’s footsteps via the Underground Railroad.

For the past three years, Mr. Johnston has been marching on human rights movements: In 2018, he marched from Selma, Ala., To Memphis, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Fr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also traveled to Northern Ireland in 2019, from Belfast to Derry, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the human rights movement in Burntollet.

“I think everyone comes in for a walk on their own,” Johnston said. “They have an inner call in their lives that something needs to change.”

Johnston embarked on the Underground Railroad on December 24, 2019, traveling 20 miles a night from Poplar Neck, Md., To Denton, Md., In honor of Tubman’s Christmas Day rescue for his relatives. Johnston completed the 120-mile trip to Philadelphia over the weekend – walking to where he left off last week and climbing back to his car at the end of the stretch – until the end of his trip in Feb. 28.

They shared the story and advice with Harris, promising to join the women in other aspects of their journey.

The group, which calls itself “We Walk With Harriet,” officially began the tour on September 5, traveling about 20 miles a day, until they reached Kennett Square, Pa., On Sept. 10.

He started a Facebook page to record the tour, which drew thousands of followers. The women also met for nearly $ 6,000 at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Cambridge.

“We heard Harriet was with us as we walked,” Harris thought. “We were amazed at how well the woman was able to do this, on such a journey being followed by dogs and guns and people who wanted to hurt her.”

“I could see our parents in the bush; I could hear them. “I could see the crew and the dogs and I could imagine what it was like to walk on it,” said Heard-Dunn. “The more we walk, the better we realize.”

The group stopped at various points along the way, including the Bucktown General Store in Cambridge, where Tubman was hit in the head with a two-pound weight, leaving lifelong damage, ignoring an order to arrest another man.

“There are very few words to describe this,” Smith said. “This was a spiritual pilgrimage by the free Harriet. One of the most powerful things we have ever done, is that people come to try to find us.”

Along the way, the group met with agents who were encouraged by the missions, providing food, water and encouraging messages. They stayed in hotels at the end of each day.

“Their travel was very important right now, because the word of the past is very high,” said Johnston, who joined the group for the last 10 miles and 17 miles.

After the final stretch, crossing Pennsylvania, about 200 people were on hand to entertain them.

“I just started to cry,” Harris said. “I was so moved by the thought, I think we did, and I think how Harriet must have felt on crossing the border into Pennsylvania, to enter freedom.”

After the trip, all the women thought that their work had just begun.

On October 9, he set off on his departure, traveling from Kennett Square, Pa., To Philadelphia, to the home of William Still – a demolitionist and fellow “host” on the Underground Railroad.

The group’s next trip is in preparation for March 2021, when it plans to embark on a 54-kilometer trek across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., To Montgomery, Ala., To celebrate the Blood Sunday in honor of the late John Lewis.

Harris, who recently retired from house-to-house sales for 32 years to pursue a career in jazz music, said he had found his true calling on the past.

“This is what I promise to do for the rest of my life,” he said. “Just putting one foot in front of the other can bring awareness to a lot of people.”

Harris has written off his retirement savings to buy a house in Cambridge, Md., Which he wants to transform into “Camp Harriet” – a place for children and adults to learn about Tubman’s life and courage.

In an effort to educate others, Harris decided to give his 12-year-old son his beloved son, so that they too would be encouraged by Tubman’s courage in the face of injustice.

“I gave it to him to continue the journey,” Harris said. “I hope one day he will walk alone.”

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