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Laramie Movie Scope: Harriet

Slave, escapee and conductor on the Underground Railroad

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 5, 2019 – I had heard of Harriet Tubman before seeing this movie but was unaware of her remarkable courage and total dedication to the cause of ending slavery. Hers is an amazing story, and quite a lot of what is shown in this movie is actually true, according to the “History Vs. Hollywood” website (here's the link: http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/harriet/).

Harriet Tubman is played wonderfully by Cynthia Erivo (“Widows”). Born into slavery, she flees alone from Maryland about 100 miles north th Philadelphia when her master threatened to sell her to a plantation farther south. Determined to rescue her family members, including her husband, John Tubman (Zackary Momoh “Doctor Sleep”) she headed back south to get them.

Harriet displays such talent rescuing slaves that she impresses the abolitionist William Still (played by Leslie Odom Jr. of “Murder on the Orient Express”). Still makes Harriet a conductor on the Underground Railroad, a system of safe houses and transportation helpers enabling slaves to escape to the north. In all she rescued about 70 slaves.

Harriet suffered a head injury as an adolescent which resulted in periods of epilepsy, visions and vivid dreams. Harriet believed these dreams and visions were messages from God. In the film, the visions and dreams seemed to give her information about people trying to capture her, enabling her to escape and avoid traps.

Much of the film is taken up with Harriet's attempts to rescue members of her own family. Her husband remarries and refuses to go north with her, but she finds plenty of others willing to risk the journey to the north. Slave owners become alarmed at the number of slaves who are getting away, led by Harriet. The slave owners, thinking it must be an unknown man taking their slaves north, name the unknown person Moses.

Harriet is portrayed as a strong woman, with a strong faith in God. She is a leader, daring, courageous and determined. She is also shown, later in life, leading a large force of Union soldiers near the Combahee River in South Carolina during the Civil War, the first woman to lead an armed assault in the war, according to the movie's credits. The raid resulted in the rescue of 750 slaves.

Harriet not only worked tirelessly as an abolitionist, helping John Brown, among others. She was also a Suffragette. She was a spy and advisor for the Union Army during the Civil War. The film also shows her leading slaves into what is now Canada after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850 made it unsafe for escaped slaves in the northern states.

This movie is a powerful portrait of a remarkable woman. It also highlights the dangers faced by slaves trying to escape to freedom, and those who helped them, including the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers. The movie, directed by Kasi Lemmons (“Talk to Me”) provides an inspirational representation of Harriet Tubman and the times she lived in. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2019 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]