Dec 12, 2023
Hear from the author of a revelatory memoir about a 330-mile walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City—an unforgettable pilgrimage to the heart of America across some of our oldest common ground.
Neil King Jr.’s desire to walk from Washington, D.C., to New York City began as a whim and soon became an obsession. By the spring of 2021, events had intervened that gave his desire greater urgency. His neighborhood still reeled from the January 6th insurrection. Covid lockdowns and a rancorous election had deepened America’s divides. Neil himself bore the imprints of a long battle with cancer.
Determined to rediscover what matters in life and to see our national story with new eyes, Neil turned north with a small satchel on his back and one mission in mind: To pay close attention to the land he crossed and the people he met.
What followed is an extraordinary 26-day journey through historic battlefields and cemeteries, over the Mason-Dixon line, past Quaker and Amish farms, along Valley Forge stream beds, atop a New Jersey trash mound, across New York Harbor, and finally, to his ultimate destination: the Ramble, where a tangle of pathways converges in Central Park. The journey travels deep into America’s past and present, uncovering forgotten pockets and overlooked people. At a time of mounting disunity, the trip reveals the profound power of our shared ground.
By turns amusing, inspiring, and sublime, American Ramble offers an exquisite account of personal and national renewal—an indelible study of our country as we’ve never seen it before.
Neil King, Jr. grew up in Colorado in a house with the Rocky Mountains out the back door and the flat plains out the front. He went to school in Chicago and then New York City, where he studied philosophy at Columbia University. He worked a multitude of jobs, from busboy and ranch hand to cab driver and private investigator, before settling into a career in journalism. He worked in Florida for the Tampa Tribune and later for the Prague Post in the newly born Czech Republic. For 20 years he traveled to more than 50 countries in all continents to write and report and poke around as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. During his years in Washington, DC, he served as chief diplomatic correspondent, national political reporter and, at the end, the Journal’s global economics editor. He now travels and writes on his own. He is the founder and editor of Gotham Canoe, an online journal dedicated to life out of doors. American Ramble: A Walk of Memory and Renewal is his first book. He lives with his wife in Washington DC.
This program is part of the American Inspiration Series from American Ancestors/NEHGS and presented in partnership with with the Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library.