Cinema Has A New Action Hero, And Her Name Is Harriet Tubman

Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in "Harriet," a Focus Features release.
Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in "Harriet," a Focus Features release.
Credit Glen Wilson / Focus Features

The film “Harriet” takes viewers through abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s journey from enslavement to Underground Railroad “conductor” to Union Army leader.

The movie, released Friday, depicts the life of Tubman. She made history for taking about 13 trips to Maryland, where she rescued approximately 70 enslaved people or “freedom seekers.”

When she started running missions to Canada, she helped facilitate more rescue trips for people to find refuge. During her missions, she put aside her own safety to help others find their way to freedom.

Throughout the movie, Tubman receives visions from God that tell her where and how to lead the freedom seekers.

“City Lights” senior producer Claire Reynolds spoke with the film’s director Kasi Lemmons about the production.

“Once I started really diving into the research of her, I realized that if I didn’t tell that part of the story, then I wasn’t telling the real Harriet Tubman story. [Her visions] are so integral to her story,” Lemmons said.

Tubman was nicknamed “Moses” by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and over time she built her own network of Northern Underground Railway routes and safe houses.

“Bounty hunters didn’t really know who ‘Moses’ was, and there was disbelief that any black person could be that intelligent or have that kind of a plan. They believed it was a white abolitionist in blackface, but that worked to her advantage,” Lemmons said. “Underestimating black people worked to the enslaved people’s advantage when they were running away.”

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