Media Notes & Updates

June 16, 2024

Here’s the latest press release for the upcoming Galveston to Houston Juneteenth Walk to Freedom.

The goal of the Galveston to Houston Juneteenth Walk to Freedom is to commemorate the journey of the American ancestors forced off the land they labored over and into the hot sun, with no renumeration or place to go, after Emancipation. By tracing the footsteps of liberated slaves from Galveston to Houston, we hope to activate through the public presentation of walking the deep power of memory these historic heritage trails hold.

The two principal walkers leading the Galveston to Houston Walk to Freedom project are Ken Johnston, of Philadelphia, and Frank Thompson, of Kansas City.

Frank Thompson
Ken Johnston

June 16, 2024

Friends to Commemorate Juneteenth

with Historic Walk from Galveston to Houston

Kansas City, MO – In honor of Juneteenth, native-born Texan Frank Thompson and his friend Ken Johnston will embark on a 60-mile walk from the Gulf coast City of Galveston to Houston’s Freedmen’s Town. This journey aims to honor Freedom Seekers and explore the deep power of memory along Black heritage trails, such as the proposed Emancipation National Historic Trail.

The walk, starting June 18, 2024, will be Thompson’s first long-distance hike across his home state. Reflecting on this significant occasion, Thompson said, “For me, this walk is a chance to reconnect with my Texas roots, including ancestors who were likely part of the original Juneteenth exodus.”

Johnston, who initiated the Walk to Freedom project in 2018, emphasized, “Black heritage trails offer glimpses of a time past. This walk is about evoking the power of memory and honoring the resilient spirits of those who sought freedom.”

The Emancipation National Historic Trail Act, approved by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019, proposes a 51-mile trail from Galveston to Houston, following the path taken by newly freed slaves in 1865. The goal of the Juneteenth Walk the long-time friends are attempting commemorates the journey of American ancestors who labored without renumeration over the cotton rich lands of Texas before and after Emancipation.

Both friends are prepared for the challenging Texas heat, planning to start early each day and take frequent breaks and other precautions to protect themselves from the heat. Donations to support the walk can be made on the website www.ourwalktofreedom.com

Schedule:

Tuesday June 18, 2024

7-9 p.m. Texas City Museum to the Bell Home, 1867 Settlement Historic District, 117 S Bell Dr, Texas City, 5.3 mi

Wednesday June 19, 2024

5-9:30 a.m. 1867 Settlement to Santa Fe, 10 mi

6:00 – 7:00 p.m. Historic Emancipation March, Reedy Chapel, Galveston

Thursday, June 20, 2024

5-9:30 a.m. Santa Fe to Friendswood, 17 mi

1:30 – 3:30 p.m. *Visit to Magnolia Cemetery, the Dunbar School, & Moore’s Addition,

Town of Dickinson

7-8:30 p.m. Friendswood to nightfall, five miles

Friday, June 21, 2024

5-9:30 a.m. Friendswood to William P. Hobby Airport area, 13-miles

7-8:30 p.m. Hobby Airport to Good Hope Baptist Missionary Church, 3015 N MacGregor Way, about 10 miles.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Rest day or walking to catch up with the schedule.

7-8:30 p.m. TBD to Good Hope Baptist Church

Sunday, June 23, 2024

 Rest day.

Monday, June 24, 2024

9:30 a.m. Walk to Freedom Community Day. Meet up with Friends of Columbia Tap and Fit Houston for last four miles on trial adjacent to the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 3015 N MacGregor Way, to Emancipation Park, 3018 Emancipation Ave, Houston, and Freedmen’s Town, 4 mi

*Not part of walking tour

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May 11, 2023
Walk to Freedom – “We Still Here,” A Walking Meditation from Harpers Ferry to Gettysburg on Black Americans’ Raised Voices and Perseverance for Justice and Freedom, press release is now available by clicking here. The walk is scheduled to begin on Thursday May 18, at 8:00 a.m. The exact starting location in Harpers Ferry has yet to be determined and will be posted next week.

Press Release

“We Still Here”

A Walking Meditation from Harpers Ferry to Gettysburg

on Black Americans’ Raised Voices and

Perseverance for Justice and Freedom

Harpers Ferry, WV – Philadelphia-based Walking Artist Ken Johnston plans to walk from Harpers Ferry to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania May 18-24, meditating on Black resistance and perseverance for justice and freedom. The theme of the walk is entitled “We Still Here,” and celebrates the strength and resilience of the Black communities of Harpers Ferry, Frederick, Catoctin Furnace, and Hagerstown, Maryland.

Johnston, who completed a walk last summer to Canada from the Eastern Shore of Maryland following the Underground Railroad, said he is excited to visit the area to learn about the important role these unsung communities played in facilitating corridors of freedom for self-liberator.

In choosing to walk, you “walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet,” Johnston said quoting Thich Nhat Hanh. Johnston added, “When I walk, I try to feel the ‘sole of the souls’ untold stories of the past. I look for what is different, what is new and what is the same. The Black communities of Harpers Ferry, Frederick and Hagerstown have long struggled with segregation and racism, they also have a history of diversity, progress, and activism.”

Black resistance to slavery across the Shenandoah Valley and Western Maryland resembled forms of resistance practiced elsewhere by Blacks in communities along the Mason-Dixon line through the end of the Civil War.

The resistance was aided by free Black communities formed near the border separating free and slave states. Family relationships, church and community, iron forges, and knowledge of the lay of the land all helped Freedom Seekers extract opportunity from it.

This will be Johnston’s fourth walking journey across the Mason-Dixon line to Pennsylvania tracing the footsteps of ancestors (Black and White) who played a role in successful escapes. On this walk, he hopes to meet descendants of the area who can talk about their family’s history to the landscape.

Walking Background

Not new to long distance walking, in 2018, Johnston successfully completed a 400-mile solo walking journey across the Deep South from Selma, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee to commemorate MLK50th visiting the many places Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. either worked, pastored, or led peaceful protests.  Internationally, Johnston has walked across Puerto Rico on the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria following the trajectory of the storm’s devastating path, and the North of Ireland symbolically linking its short-lived Civil Rights movement with the U.S.

“My very first walk was across Massachusetts during the summer of 2017 when Confederate Civil War statues and monuments were being reevaluated around the country. As I walked across Massachusetts, I began reflecting on the monuments I was seeing on town commons dotting the state and despite the thousands upon thousands of brave African American men who served in the Civil War there were only one or two that represented us across the breadth of the state.”

Walking Itinerary

Beginning at the former Storer College, once the seat of the Black community in Harpers Ferry, Johnston will walk to Frederick, MD on May 18th and 19th, then turn north to for the Maryland Iron Festival at Catoctin Furnace on May 20. Afterwards he’ll weave his way across the Blue Ridge Mountains to Hagerstown where I plan to arrive on May 21. From there he’ll spend the next two to three days walking to Gettysburg.

Community Support

Johnston is seeking to share his story about walking the Underground Railroad with interested groups. Community connections are also wanted to help with overnight lodging and meals along the way. If members of the community would like to join Ken on the walk, they are welcomed to jump right in for one mile, one block, or any distance they feel comfortable. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support Ken’s Walk to Freedom journeys.

Ken Johnston is a recipient of the 2021 Mural Arts Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists and the 2018 Amherst Irish Association’s Margaret Maher Award.

For more information or to suggest an idea, contact Ken directly at ourwalktofreedom@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.ourwalktofreedom.com

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July 13, 2022 Walk to Freedom – New York to Canada will begin on Thursday July 14, from the Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue, St. Nicholas Avenue and, Frederick Douglass Blvd, in Harlem. Details on the exact start time are still coming together, please email me at ourwalktofreedom@yahoo.com   

Press Release

Walking Artist Plans   

450-Mile Walk to Freedom 

Following New York State’s Underground Railroad 

Harlem, NY – Ken Johnston, a Philadelphia-based walking artist, who responds to the call of social change and history by walking to put Movement back in the Civil Rights Movement, is tracing the footsteps of Freedom Seekers like Harriet Tubman this summer by walking from New York City to Canada visiting known Underground Railroad communities.

On Thursday July 14, Johnston plans to begin a new “Walk to Freedom” journey from Harlem to St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, following the Underground Railroad up the Hudson River Valley to Albany and across central parts of New York.

The Underground Railroad network across New York during the 19th century can be traced to pockets of communities with free African Americans that were situated near other communities of Abolitionists, Quakers and Methodists – all working with the purpose to bring down the formidable enemy of slavocracy with an unwavering commitment to freedom.

Walking Background

Not new to long distance walking, in 2018, Johnston successfully completed a 400-mile solo walking journey across the Deep South from Selma, Alabama to Memphis, Tennessee to commemorate MLK50th visiting the many places Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. either worked, pastored, or led peaceful protests.

Internationally, Johnston has walked across Puerto Rico on the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria following the trajectory of the storm’s devastating path, and the North of Ireland symbolically linking its short lived Civil Rights movement with the U.S.

The walk will remember and celebrate Harriet Tubman’s life and journey to freedom on the 200th anniversary year of her birthday. 

Walking Itinerary

Upon reaching Alison Saar’s Swing Low Harriet Tubman Memorial statue in Harlem, the first public monument to an African American woman in New York City, Johnston plans to resume the walk he completed last year at the statue. From Harlem, he plans to walk to the historic Lincoln Ave. Corridor in New Rochelle. 

7/14 Harlem – New Rochelle 12 mi

7/15-16 New Rochelle/Scarsdale/Bedford, 24 mi

7/17 Bedford/Katonah, John Jay Homestead Farm, 4 mi

7/17 John Jay Homestead/Katonah Museum of Art, 2 mi

7/17 Katonah Museum/ Katonah Center, 1 mi

7/18-7/20 Katonah/Poughkeepsie, 45 mi

7/21-7/23 Poughkeepsie/Hudson, 42 mi

7/24-25 Hudson/Albany, 31 mi

Johnston is seeking to share his story about walking the Underground Railroad with interested groups along the way. Additionally, he is seeking donations to help defray the costs of the walk. Donations may be made on his website at www.ourwalktofreedom.com through GoFundMe. 

Community Support

Community connections are also wanted to help with overnight lodging and meals along the way. If people would like to join Ken on the walk, they are welcomed to jump right in for one mile, one block, or any distance they feel comfortable. 

Ken Johnston is a recipient of the 2021 Mural Arts Philadelphia Fellowship for Black Artists and the 2018 Amherst Irish Association’s Margaret Maher Award.

For more information or to suggest an idea, contact Ken directly at ourwalktofreedom@yahoo.com or visit his website at www.ourwalktofreedom.com

Southern New Jersey Underground Railroad

On Saturday April 2, Deborah Price and I began a 165-mile Walk to Freedom journey retracing the Underground Railroad across South New Jersey from Cape May to Burlington City. The goal of the walk is to resurrect the voices and memory of the people who history has forgotten, while simultaneously recognizing the families that were separated and reunited again by their love for each other and their quest for freedom.

For more information, please refer to our press release.

The public is invited to join us at any point in the walk. Updates on the starting and end point of each week’s walk will be posted on the itinerary on the blog page.

Starting in Cape May, Saturday April 2, 2022

The first day of the walk will be a night walk simulating how many Freedom Seekers travelled to avoid from being spotted by kidnappers who would attempt to return to them to slavery. The walk will begin at Second and Beach Ave, in Cape May, about 4:30 p.m., and continue to the Harriet Tubman Museum on Lafayette St. before turning north toward Cold Spring, Whitesboro and continuing up Route 9 ending at the Cape May Court House.

Day two of the walk, Sunday April 3, will begin at 8:00 a.m. at the Cape May Court House and follow Route 47 to the Delmont Post Office, about 15-miles.

March 31, 2021 The Perth Amboy River Crossing on Saturday April 3, remains unconfirmed. A previous commitment appears to have fallen through. If we are unable to secure a boat ride across the Arthur Kill River we will drive to Tottenville and resume our walk to the Light House Museum on the North Shore.

August 30, 2019 Update: Sin Cita/Without Appointment begins Saturday September 7, in Quebradillas, to coincide with the 2017 passing of Hurricane Irma. The caminata across Puerto Rico will conclude on September 20 to mark the 2nd Anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall on the archipelago. The walk will terminate in Yabucoa.

April 8, 2019 Update: I plan to begin my peace walk on Wednesday April 10 at 9:00 a.m. from Belfast City Hall. My outward march will follow the following streets:

Donegal Pl., Royal Ave., Clifton St., Crumlin Road, A55, Lionel Road, Ballyhill Road, Lylehill Road, Ballyutoag Road (A52), to B39 and onwards to Antrim. This is an approximate route the 1969 People’s Democracy marchers may have followed out of Belfast. I will make adjustments as I go along to stay true to the original route as much as possible.

News Release

Our Walk to Freedom_New York_Press Release

Walk Across Puerto Rico_Sin Cita

Walk Across Northern Ireland_Ken Johnston Press Release

News Articles

Retracing Harriet Tubman’s Steps to Freedom Across Delaware, Delaware Today, 5/20/2021

Retracing the Steps of Harriet Tubman, Ken Johnston Comes to BK on His Walk to Freedom, 4/6/2021

Walking Artist to End 265-Mile Underground Railroad Trek in NYC, 4/6/2021

The Lantern, Newsletter, Kennett Square Underground Railroad, 3/2020

Underground Railroad hiker welcomed in Kennett, Chester County Press, 2/18/2020

American pair retracing original civil rights march, Derry Journal, 4/16/2019

Walking the “Belfast to Derry” and “Selma to Montgomery” trail in the name of civil rights, IrishCentral.com, 4/5/19

Radio Interview: May The Road Rise Up To Meet You, WRSI-FM, 4/5/19

Amherst man to take 3-day walk to fight hunger, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 6/14/18

Massachusetts man passes through county during Selma to Memphis walk, 280 Reporter, 3/7/2018

Johnston spreads awareness for civil rights one step at a time, Selma Times Journal, 2/28/2018

Johnston embarks on 400 mile walk to honor Dr. King, Selma Times Journal, 2/24/2018

Amherst man to walk from Selma to Memphis for civil rights, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 2/21/2018

Amherst man hopes to hear ‘spirit of ancestors’ on 400 mile Selma to Memphis walk, Springfield Republican, 2/11/2018

Amherst Man Pieces Together A Walk To Remember, Cape Cod Times, 9/25/2017

Amherst Man Walks the Breadth of Massachusetts, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 9/25/2017

MassWalk 2017, Blog, Summer 2017