A movie review by Luana M. Graves Sellars

Review Part 1 

With a minor in Black History, I know that there are several historical figures who were pivotal to the direction of our nation, and who’s complete story has yet to be told. To me, Harriett Tubman is at the top of that list. So imagine my excitement and flat out thrill when I heard that the woman called “Moses”, who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, finally not only made it to the big screen, but her story was going to be told to the masses, the way that it should be told. 

Harriett Tubman circa 1850-1860

Like most things, when your full of anticipation, and when you probably know too much about a subject to cram into a 2-hour movie, it’s possible to become disappointed. I expected more details of her life’s achievements to be included, however, at the end of the day, Harriett did what it needed to do, and did it well. 

Regardless of what could have been added to the film, Harriett is on the screen. It’s a movie that sharing more about a heroine, who influenced the course of American history, yet, in most textbooks is noted by a few sentences.   

I was prepared to see another riveting, yet infuriating depiction of slavery, similar to Roots, 12 Years A Slave or Django, to name a few. However, I must say, that I was pleasantly surprised by the gentility of how the film told the story. Yes, the cruelty of slavery was there, but without the blatant graphic images, that have scarred our collective subconscious for decades. 

Harriet Tubman with her husband John Tubman, a freed black man.
Circa 1844-1851

Directed by Kasi Lemmons, Harriett is a tastefully done film with a respectful snapshot of  Harriett Tubman’s incredible and powerful life. Because of its focus on the story and not on portrayals of cruelty, Harriett can be seen by children of all ages. It’s a film that could and should be shown in schools; from elementary on up. 

Actress Cynthia Envio brings life and a depth of character that Harriett herself would be proud; with a story to back it, that highlights Harriott’s motivation and development into a natural leader.  Envio’s acting is seamless enough to make you believe that you have a birds-eye view into Tubman’s life. Scene by scene, you can clearly follow her growth and utter determination to follow Tubman’s God-given destiny. 

Throughout the film, the actors brought a necessary element of strength and support to the storyline, although I felt that some of the historic leaders that were shown in several scenes, should have been identified, for those viewers who might not know who Harriett Tubman eventually socialized with. In addition, since it took until 2019 for this movie to be released, I think that more about Harriett Tubman’s participation in the Civil War alongside the Union Army and her influence on President Lincoln were important enough to her story that it should have been included. 

Scene from the movie Harriett when she led Colored Troops on the Combahee River raid in the Lowcountry and freed more than 750 slaves.

Looking back through movie-making history, sometimes stories are told about insignificant faceless or inconsequential people. And those films might have an interesting twist or lesson to be learned. This movie is about Harriett Tubman; an American hero, with an important American story.  And as such, it’s our duty to know the complete truth, painful or not, about where we came from, so that we can know where we are and how we are going to get to where we need to be.  

The bottom line is, go see the movie! Bring your children, take a friend and tell a neighbor, regardless of what you do, just go. Seeing Harriett might intrigue you enough to dig a little deeper, learn a little more and become a Harriett Tubman fan like me!

(More on what’s historically missing from the movie, Harriett: The Movie in my review Part 2.)   

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