It seems strange that the new movie “Harriet,” opening Friday, is the first and only major film about Harriet Tubman.
By now, multiple generations have read about the Underground Railroad engineer in school. Tubman, played in the movie by Cynthia Ervio, is part of black history’s official pantheon, her name as recognizable as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcolm X. So what gives?
Kasi Lemmons, who directed the new movie, has a pretty straightforward explanation.
“First of all, I think it’s a miracle any movie gets made,” she says.
But it’s more than that.
“It’s only recently the industry found it viable to make a film with a black female protagonist.”
When you look at it that way, it’s remarkable we have a Harriet Tubman movie. The film follows Tubman on the trajectory we know, from slavery in the Deep South to freedom in Philadelphia, guiding other slaves to the North along the way. It pays particular attention to the anti-slavery activists with whom she worked, many of whom were awestruck and a little frightened by her audacity.