Walk To Freedom

February 19, 2018

Dear Friends,

In five days I will head to Selma, Alabama to embark on a symbolic 400-mile solo-walking journey.

The walk will connect the historic Civil Rights Trail from Selma to Montgomery, trace the Underground Railroad and conclude at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee where I’ve been invited to join in remembering the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination.

The idea behind Walk to Freedom,  came to me after I finished walking across Massachusetts last summer and sensed that I needed to keep going. I heard the whispers of our ancestors in the words of the great Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman:  "Keep going, if you want a taste of freedom, keep going!”

Why walk? Because throughout American history, especially African-American history, walking has punctuated major social-change events. I believe by following in the footsteps of some of the original Freedom Seekers new pathways will begin to emerge, not only for my life, but maybe also for the lives of those I come in contact with on this journey.

Walk to Freedom will take 30 days as I connect with people, places and history across 18 counties and 28 townships between Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee – the distance driving from Boston to Baltimore.

When I sent my proposal to participate in the “Where Do We Go From Here?” MLK50 Remembrance Ceremonies in Memphis, I had an idea to do this. When they accepted my proposal, I knew I had to do it.

And now to the money part… In order to do this, I must raise $2,500 by February 23rd. I’m reaching out to everyone I know and many of you who I don’t necessarily know but whom I believe would share in the pleasure and pride of this undertaking. These funds will pay for the travel expenses, outdoor equipment, shoes, food, water, campground fees, and emergency medical insurance I need to make the journey. I will begin walking from Selma, on February 25, 2018 completing 100 miles a week to reach Memphis by April 2.

Why should you give to this? I hope, because you are inspired, as I am, by the prospect of living history and the importance of putting our bodies on the line (or, in my case, the breakdown lane!)  I am already making connections with churches and civic groups en route with whom I will be sharing my experiences and the well wishes of all of you who are supporting this vision of connection. Additionally, I see this journey as generating a series of questions and observations that I will share with our own civic groups and area schools upon my return. Again, your support will make this happen.

I’ve tried to think of some ways I could include you in this experience and thank you for your support.  I’m asking you to consider supporting me at a level that you can afford and that inspires you.  Here’s what I’ve come up with: Everyone who gives will receive updates on the walk through my blog. If you can give $30-$50 I am arranging with the museum to provide a gift copy of the Memphis Commercial Appeal special edition newspaper titled 6:01, the time Dr. King died. For everyone who gives $50-$100 I will post 5 postcards from significant stops along my route. If you can give $100 or more you will receive a narrated video of me walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge (scene of Bloody Sunday) -- sent to you personally by text.

I owe a lot to those who came before me, and those who have helped me along the way. This is my way of paying homage to their legacy while simultaneously building on my own. I sincerely hope you will join me in making this happen.

If you want to know more about my walk across Massachusetts visit:

Amherst Man hopes to hear spirit of ancestors, 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

I'll post updates on this journey as it unfolds, along with some stories about the people I meet on my journey.

Stay tuned.

Ken Johnston


Ken Johnston
Amherst, MA

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