I saw Harriet on its opening day! Of course, I was somewhat hesitant because I was hoping that is wouldn’t be another slave movie that left my blood boiling. Thank goodness, it gave this awful part of American history the gentle touch. I did not have to watch adults being whipped but we were shown the scars on their backs. That was enough to reveal the effects of that dark chapter.
When the movies opens Minty Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) is a young married woman who is about to be sold further south of Virginia where she lived. She had a terrible childhood injury which left her skull fractured and as a result, she has fainting spells. During these periods of loss of consciousness, she has visions. She is shown things that will occur in the future. She later said that the hole in her head was an opening for God to speak to her.
She keeps dreaming about running away and one day, she decides that it is time. She only tells her father and he advises her to go to the church to talk to the preacher before heading out. Her father also gives her a special keepsake of a whittled head as a good luck charm.
The preacher receives her and tells her to look out for certain landmarks and to follow the Delaware River. He also tells her to follow that Northern Star and gives her the name of someone who can help her along the way.
She makes it 100 miles away to Philadelphia, which was a free city at the time. With the help of a freedman named William Still (Leslie Odom, Jr.), she starts working and making a living for herself. A year later, she makes her first return to Virginia to get her brothers and a few others. Thus, her mission in life begins.
She follows her visions and returns several times to get others. Then, The Fugitive Slave Law is enacted, and they are forced to move further north to Canada. Over time, she goes back and finally gets her elderly parents and by this time, The Underground Railroad had become much more more sophisticated with more people helping the runaways. It is said that she helped over 750 slaves escape to freedom and at one point, she commanded a black unit of soldiers during the Civil War. She lived to be 91 years old.
In the movie Harriet, the acting is so realistic. It was like getting a chance to really know Harriet as a person. The actors are superb. A few mentions are the British actor Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom, Jr., Janelle Monae, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Joe Alwyn and Vondie Curtis-Hall. The list is endless.
Kasi Lemmons did a phenomenal job as the director of this film. She shared this biopic without awakening emotions of anger or horror. Again, it was great. The plot was great. The music was great. The scenery was great. And to that point, when it was over, the theatre audience applauded. So there. That says it all!
Lynn M. November 1, 2019