WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (FEBRUARY 28, 2023)—PBS North Carolina will debut the “Journey to Salem” documentary on Wednesday, March 15 at 8 p.m. The documentary chronicles the story of more than 400 Salem Academy and College alumnae, friends, relatives and students who, in 2021, as part of Salem’s 250th anniversary celebration, replicated the historic journey that ultimately resulted in the institution’s founding.
The original journey was undertaken by 21 Moravians (19 of whom were young women and girls) who traveled from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Bethabara, North Carolina in 1766. After completing their remarkable journey, two of the women, Elisabeth Oesterlein and Salome Meurer, became some of the first teachers and staff in the new girls’ school created in 1772 that is known today as Salem Academy and College.
Salem Academy and College’s replicated journey from Bethlehem to Salem took place from September 28 to October 26, 2021 and involved 500 miles of walking by following the route outlined in the 1766 journal of Salome Meurer. After beginning in Bethlehem, the journey followed a colonial migration trail, which passes through Maryland, continues east of the mountains in Virginia, and turns west in Hillsborough, North Carolina. On October 25, walkers arrived in Bethabara, the original 1766 destination. The final leg of the recreated journey featured a 6.5 mile walk from Bethabara to a celebratory arrival at Salem on the afternoon of October 26, 2021.
Salem alumnae and friends participated in the recreated journey in person or virtually. Some walked for a day or several days, and five intrepid alumnae, known as “The Fab Five,” walked the entire 29-day, 500-mile journey. On average, participants walked approximately 20 miles per day.
Embedded with the seven alumnae who made the entire trip was Salem alumna filmmaker Alex Klein, Salem College C’08, who captured significant and light-hearted moments during the 2021 walk and subsequently produced the “Journey to Salem” documentary.
“Before our school existed, back in 1766, 21 individuals set off on an arduous journey, leaving their Pennsylvania homes forever to create new lives in what was then the wilderness of North Carolina,” Salem Academy and College President Summer J. McGee, Ph.D., CPH said. “Watching the ‘Journey to Salem’ on PBS North Carolina will be a great way to celebrate Women’s History Month during March with a wonderful story about individual determination and resilience, and of literally putting one foot in front of the other during 500 miles of fun, adventure and storytelling.”
The production team for “Journey to Salem consisted of two women—Alex Klein and Jennida Chase—who worked along the entire 500-mile route from an Audi Q5, provided by Flow Audi of Winston-Salem. Chase is the director of photography for “Journey to Salem.” Hassan Pitts is an additional cinematographer, and Martin Buchanan is co-editor. Some of the video in the documentary was taken by the walkers themselves.
“I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to document both the modern and historical Journey to Salem, as both highlight Salem’s unique contributions to the history of female education,” Alex Klein said. “Salem creates strong, independent thinkers who are ready to take on the world.
The “Journey to Salem” documentary will be accessible for streaming via the PBS app on Roku, Apple TV or mobile devices on March 15. It also will be available live on March 15 at 8 p.m. at the pbsnc.org website. PBS will re-air the documentary on its North Carolina Channel on March 15 at 9 p.m.
About Alex Avril Klein
Alex Avril Klein began her career doing Marketing and PR for film festivals before earning her MFA in Creative Producing at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking. She first studied English and Creative Writing at Salem College, and credits a Women in Film class she attended there for inspiring her career in film. Alex recently created a grant-funded program entitled Grrrl Gaze Film School, a digital curriculum that teaches female identifying and non-binary teens the importance of representation and media literacy. She has worked on music videos, commercials, and several independent films such as the Sundance Lab Feature One & Two, by Andrew Droz Palermo, and Girl in the Show, a documentary by local creator, Anna Fields. Alex is currently an Associate Producer for an unscripted TV series, 50/50 Flip, which airs on A&E. Journey to Salem is her directorial debut.
About Salem Academy and College
Celebrating 250 years, Salem Academy and College is built upon a foundation of empowering and preparing girls and women from all around the world to effect change, shatter expectations and lead. The institution focuses on developing tomorrow’s health leaders and change agents in the STEAM fields and liberal arts. Salem Academy and College is ranked No. 1 among National Liberal Arts Colleges in the category of Top Performers on Social Mobility in the 2023 edition of U.S. News Best Colleges.
Salem Academy and College is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a vibrant college town known for arts and innovation. For more information about Salem Academy, please visit SalemAcademy.com or more information about Salem College, please visit Salem.edu.