Rusty Wright: ‘Harriet’ Review

Antebellum abolitionist Harriet Tubman had convictions and courage that helped free herself and many others from slavery’s scourge.  She’s inspired modern activists and academics, schoolchildren and senators.  What drove her risk-taking and sustained her struggles?  A new film dramatically portrays this heroine’s exploits.

Harriet features Tony, Emmy and Grammy Award®-winner Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale, Widows), Tony and Grammy Award®-winner c), Joe Alwyn (Boy Erased, Mary Queen of Scots), multiple Grammy Award®-winner Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).

The U.S. Postal Service honored Harriet Tubman with two postage stamps.  A World War 2 ship bore her name.  Her face is slated to adorn the US $20 bill.  Who was she, and what did she accomplish?

Underground railroad

Born into slavery in Maryland in about 1822, Harriet wanted out in her twenties.  At great risk, she made her way north to Pennsylvania and freedom.  But her heart was with family left behind, so she returned to help others escape.

A network of sympathizers and safe houses that stretched into Canada – dubbed the “Underground Railroad” – assisted the slaves on their journey to freedom.  Teams would travel by night.  Perils were legion.

Altogether, Harriet liberated about seventy people, many of them related to her, on twelve (or possibly thirteen) rescue missions.  When the Civil War broke out, she served the Union army as a nurse, spy and scout.  The woman had craft and courage.

Legend or truth?

As happens with many heroes, stories sometimes grow with the telling, and so with Harriet.  Many accounts number nineteen rescue missions and say she freed three hundred.  Three hundred sometimes morphs into several thousand.

Syracuse University historian Milton Sernett taught a course on “Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory and History” and published a book of the same title.  He seeks to sift truth from legend:

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Assist News

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