Harriet Tubman was an incredible woman and remains an important part of our history. Born Araminta “Minty” Ross, and later changing her name to Harriet Tubman (inspired by her mother and husband), she would ultimately be nicknamed “Moses”, a leader to freedom. A conductor of the Underground Railroad, she not only escaped slavery herself, but is responsible for freeing approximately 70 other people. She was a vital player in the fight to abolish slavery in the American Civil War, acting as a cook, nurse, spy, and was the first woman ever to lead an armed assault. With that said, I was shocked to learn that Harriet (directed by Kasi Lemmons) is the first feature film made about this exceptional woman.
Harriet was able to tackle the enormous task of retelling a crucial story in history so successfully that I believe this film could (and should) be shown in classrooms around the world. This film is simultaneously real and emotional yet has an incredible hopefulness to it. I can still see Harriet (Cynthia Erivo) holding her hands up to frame the rising sun as she steps across the border to freedom for the first time. She wove her desperation into determination, proclaiming “Imma be free or die”, and did everything in her power to succeed.
Cynthia Erivo effortlessly embodies Harriet Tubman in such a special way. If her performance wasn’t telling enough, she brings her gorgeous voice to the role, highlighting various songs from that time period, which often acted as secret messages to other slaves. Just try not to have chills during the trailer of this film as “Farewell Oh Farewell” plays.
Painted across stunning landscapes, Harriet reproduces impressive costumes of that time period, and takes advantage of light and dark to convey emotion.
The only slight misstep was the story line surrounding Harriet’s visions from God. Harriet was known to be very religious, claiming to have had vision from God, and crediting Him for guiding her through her successful escape and subsequent missions. Although this was imperative to the story, I felt that, closer to the end of the film, they started feeling more like psychic premonitions rather than the voice of God. (Even so, this didn’t detract from the overall quality of the film.)
As a human being, I can barely find the words to express my gratitude to Harriet Tubman for her valiancy and single-handedly shifting the trajectory of history. As a woman, how do I convey my sheer inspiration? How do I convey my thanks for her role in my right to vote? Harriet Tubman was a down right warrior and I don’t want to begin to think where we would be without her.
“I made it this far on my own so don’t you tell me what I can’t do.”