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4I took my kids to see Harriet last weekend.  This is the third film attempt to do Harriet Tubman justice.  It is good. But as a history buff pretty well versed on her life and the abolitionist movement, I find it necessary to acknowledge the accuracies and point out the inaccuracies, some of which are of major importance and others minor.  As I’m writing about the film, I will note whether I deem the inaccuracy “major” or “minor.”  By major I mean an inaccuracy which creates a serious misconception to the detriment of the understanding of the events and occurrences.  By minor I mean those which are trivial and perhaps justified in poetic license, as I do not expect a film to simply throw history onto a paint-by-numbers canvass, but rather to generate an impression which improves the viewers understanding and sense of the history.

The first Tubman film was released in the 1960s where she was played by Ruby Dee.  I’ve never seen that one.  A second film entitled “A Woman Called Moses” was a made-for-TV film aired in the 1970s.  It was okay – maybe more historically accurate than Harriet, but poorly written and even Cicely Tyson’s talent couldn’t salvage the script.

As I expected, Harriet is a very effective film to introduce her to the younger generations, hopefully inspiring some of them to read up.  Unfortunately, some of the compromises were made to generate an action movie to include typical chases and gun fights.

You know the story.  Harriet Tubman is a slave and is going to be separated from her family as the widow slave owner has to sell off slaves to save her farm.  Tubman escapes and makes her way to Philadelphia where she makes contact with the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society.  She joins the very Underground Railroad which assisted her escape and risks capture or worse to conduct 13 incursions into the south to free slaves.  Then the war breaks out and she’s a scout, spy, and possibly leads (but certainly participates) in an assault/rescue mission freeing over 700 slaves.  Then she lives in relative peace, becomes a suffragette, and dies at 91.

I seriously hope that wasn’t spoilers for anyone over 20.

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November 2019