“Harriet” Does Justice to the Life of Harriet Tubman

“Harriet” highlights the bravery and determination of American hero Harriet Tubman.


Photo by MCT Campus

By the end of its debut weekend starting Nov. 1, "Harriet" grossed over $12.1 million from 2,059 theaters, according to Forbes.

Kamryn Rogers, Co-Editor-In-Chief

From our history books to the debates on whose face should really be on the $20 bill, most people know anti-slavery heroine Harriet Tubman. “Harriet,” directed by Kasi Lemmons, is not just another movie that fabricates historical figures. Instead, it does justice to the life of the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad while keeping with more modern audiences.

The movie starts with Tubman, played by British musical actress Cynthia Erivo settled into the grass of her master’s plantation. While she is sprawled out across the field, she has flashbacks that reminisce to the moment when she separated from other members of her family. Tubman who was at this time called Araminta “Minty” Ross, was promised her freedom but is now being denied it by young plantation heir Gideon Brodess, played by Joe Alwyn. Freedom would allow her to be free alongside her husband Junyah Ross, played by CJ McBath.

Once she is made aware that her owner intends to sell her, she decides to run away without her husband and family in order to keep them out of harm’s way.  There are glimpses of the harsh journey she went on like when she washes ashore like a fish out of water or when she faints from lack of food and water.

When she reaches freedom in Philadelphia she finds shelter and community with abolitionist William Still, played by Leslie Odom Jr. and free-born African American Marie Buchanon, played by Janelle Monae.

(Photo by MCT Campus)

Even though Harriet reaches freedom early on in the movie, we are given constant reminders of the horror of this time period for slaves. The scarred bodies of the people Tubman helps to freedom and the scar from when her skull was cracked open as a child serves as symbolism for how pain can also bring power. From this scar, she is subjected to sleeping spells that gave her visions and dreams that she considered signs from God.

Harriet was given the nickname Moses which was is an analogy to the biblical story of Moses who attempted to lead the Jews to the Promised Land and free them from slavery. There’s a heavy emphasis on religion as Tubman periodically bursts into gospel tunes as a way to call on those who need help running away from their masters. Faith in God was the reason she risked her life guiding slaves to freedom, according to www.harriet-tubman.org

(Photo by MCT Campus)

Despite these “visions” that at times seen unrealistic, Ervio is able to give a stellar performance the exemplifies all the qualities that made Tubman a hero, but also human. Throughout the movie, Ervio and her fellow cast members put on full display the complexities of love, anger and faith. Though some parts are harder to watch than others, this movie is a must-see for maturer audiences.