‘We Walk With Harriet’ Journey Ends Triumphantly in Kennett Square09/17/2020 01:08PM ● By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
In an emotional welcoming that renewed their weary bodies
and reignited their spirits, the eight women who recently embarked on a
116-mile walk to raise awareness of the world’s most famous abolitionist,
finished their six-day journey on Sept. 10 at The Creamery of Kennett Square,
before about 150 exuberant supporters.
Intended to bring public awareness to Harriet Tubman’s efforts that brought slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad movement in the 1800s, the “We Walk With Harriet” contingent began their walk on Sept. 5 at the Brodess Farm in Cambridge, Md., where Tubman lived for a part of her childhood as a slave.
Averaging about 20 miles per day, the group – who live in Washington, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland and began training together in March – generally retraced Tubman’s steps on what is now the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile self-guided driving tour that includes 36 sites significant to Tubman and the Underground Railroad.
Soon after their trip began, the course the women took was followed closely by nearly 9,000 visitors on the group’s social media page. Along the byway, waiting visitors stopped to greet them, give them water and food, and offered encouragement and their homes, restrooms and yards for rest. Along the way, they stayed overnight in pre-booked hotels.
‘I am renewed’
Tracy Clarke of Washington, D.C. said she and her fellow walkers were not expecting the reception they received along the route.
“People came up to us with tears running down their face in solidarity and in spirit,” she said. “It was incredible, in a very difficult year, which lifted our hearts and our spirits so much. It completely renews and reaffirms that there are good people in this country, as there are everywhere, and we experienced that on this walk. We walked through communities that are very different from us, and they opened up their arms, offered us things, and gave us encouraging words and prayers.
“I am renewed.”
Prior to their arrival in Kennett Square on Sept. 10, the “We Walk With Harriet” group made a visit to Lincoln University, where they were greeted by Dr. Lenetta Lee, dean of the college and president for Student Success; Dr. Maxine Cook of Student Success and a representative from Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s office. While on campus, they posed for photographs with students and toured the grounds of the historic Hosana Meeting House on campus.
In anticipation for the originally scheduled arrival of the women in Kennett Square at 3 p.m., several residents began to mingle at The Creamery of Kennett Square as early as 2 p.m. When they were told that the contingent would be arriving in Kennett Square between 5 and 6 p.m., many chose to remain at the venue.
By 4 p.m., the parking lot area at The Creamery of Kennett Square was nearly full, and by 5 p.m., the size of the crowd had swelled to nearly 200, some of whom chose to form a ‘Welcome’ line along Birch Street.
Greg Lafferty, the senior pastor at the Willowdale Chapel in Unionville, waited on the corner of Broad and Birch streets with his wife Deane and their two daughters for the arrival of the women.
“We are big advocates for racial reconciliation, and it is a part of what our church is all about,” Greg Lafferty said. “It’s also about having two brown-skinned daughters and wanting them to know about their heritage. This is a part of their history and we wanted them to have a moment with this.”
“Harriet Tubman is such a hero,” Deane said, “and I think it’s important for the girls to grow up having some heroes that look like them.”
Nicole Lewis of Kennett Square brought her two fourth-grade nephews to the event.
“I grew up here, and this is a very historical moment for me,” she said. “I know that Kennett Square is home to one of the stops along the Underground Railroad and the route that Harriet Tubman traveled, so this is important, especially for someone like me, who is an African-American female.”
Just before 6 p.m., the eight members of “We Walk With Harriet” turned right onto Birch Street from Broad Street, and as they came nearer to the gathering waiting for them in the distance, they locked hands, as the sound of applause began to rise. When they reached The Creamery of Kennett Square, they embraced each other in solidarity.
‘We hope to leave a legacy that is heroic’
“We not only walk in the steps of Harriet Tubman,” Monica Samuel said. “We walk in the steps of all of our ancestors who fought for freedom and social justice – women like [abolitionist and women’s rights activist] Sojourner Truth and [civil rights and human rights activist] Ella Baker and [politician and educator] Shirley Chisholm.
“We follow their legacy and we hope to leave a legacy that is heroic.”
For “We Walk With Harriet” organizer Linda Harris, the walk reaffirmed her respect for Tubman’s accomplishments, and she vowed to repeat the walk again.
“This woman did this walk with poachers and trappers and trackers after her,” Harris said. “It was incredible. We had phones and logistics teams. I know she had people who helped her along the trail, but it was nothing like we had. I am so in awe of her accomplishments. I will honor her forever.”
On Sept. 14, the group posted on their social media page that they are scheduling a second walk on the Harriet Tubman Byway, beginning on Oct. 21, 2021, that will begin in Kennett Square and end in Cambridge, Md.
“From Saturday to Saturday, I shared my life with Harriet Tubman and the people I love the most,” Harris posted on the “We Walk With Harriet” social media page on Sept. 12. “Now I know what Harriet has been trying to show me all this time. When you have love in your life and people who support your passion, you are free, truly free! Free from terror, free from doubt and fear, free to try something new, free to block the noise, free to clear your mind, free to be inventive, free to be creative, free to laugh, free to cry, free to dance, free to walk, free to run! FREE TO LIVE!”
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is located at 4068 Golden Hill Road, Church Creek, Md. 2162. For more information, visit www.nps.gov.hatu.
To learn more about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, visit www.harriettubmanbyway.org.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].