By Patricia Ressell-Deras
“Harriet” recounts the astounding story of the American icon and activist, Harriet Tubman. Before she was the well-known abolitionist, Araminta “Minty” Ross dreamed of being “free” in the North with her family.
Played by Cynthia Erivo, previously seen in “The Color Purple” on Broadway, the multi-award-winning actress stretches her talents in the lead role by singing spirituals to convey messages to characters throughout the movie.
Before she became the groundbreaking activist Harriet Tubman, she is denied the status of “freeman” based on an agreement between her masters’ grandfather and her mother. Minty decides to make a run for freedom in order for her future children to be born free.
In 1848, Minty travels 100 miles, from Maryland to Pennsylvania, and runs into help along multiple stops in her journey, unknowingly using, and creating new trails, of the historic Underground Railroad.
Once in Pennsylvania, Minty meets fellow Underground conductor William, played by Tony Award-winning “Hamilton” actor Leslie Odom Jr., William documents Minty’s miraculous journey and asks her if she would like to change her name to reflect her “free” status.
William introduces Harriet to Marie Buchanon, played by award-winning singer/actress Janelle Monáe, who houses Harriet and helps her get a job.
After a year of being “free” as a fugitive, Harriet decides that she has to go back to Maryland for her family. While William wholeheartedly disagrees with Harriet’s decision, Marie helps aid Harriet on her journey.
However, Harriet finds out that due to personal reasons, her husband John (British-Nigerian actor Zackary Momoh) cannot go back up North with her.
At first Harriet is distraught and cries out to God about this injustice. However Harriet realizes that God didn’t send her to retrieve her husband from the South, but rather to help slaves in captivity.
The movie depicts the life and sacrifice of Harriet as an Underground conductor and activist. The film also touches on Harriet’s role in the Combahee River Raid, which led to the freedom of over 700 slaves.
The movie is historically accurate in the depiction of slave owners and slave trackers and the efforts to reclaim a slave. The brutality can be seen in the personality and actions of Harriet’s former master, Gideon Brodess (British actor Joe Alwyn).
The movie does not spare any mention of the brutality of slave owners and the outrageous lengths that slaves went through to “become free.”
The overall narrative of the movie is accurate and touches the emotions of audience goers, even if the movie lets slip some inconsequential historical facts.
The story of American activist Harriet Tubman is retold in “Harriet.”