Harriet: A Story of Freedom
On November 1, 2019, “Harriet,” the biopic about Harriet Tubman, will be released in theaters. Tubman is one of the few people in Black History who is generally known by everyone. Her exploits as an escaped slave, risking her life by returning multiple times to free hundreds of slaves are the stories of legend. This film captures her bravery, her spirit, and the constant danger she placed herself in.
This film, however, is not a story about slavery. It is unabashedly a story about freedom. While many movies that focus the Black experience from this time period around the brutality of slavery, “Harriet” goes in the opposite direction with this adventure story. The narrative also goes deeper than the usual “slaves picking cotton” tale we are so accustomed to. Director Kasi Lemmons sought to show us the nuances that existed at the time. Slavery did not look the same everywhere. One such example is the fact that Harriet Tubman’s father was a free man while her mother and sisters were slaves.
Harriet’s faith is presented as integral to her story. The themes of God’s sovereignty, goodness, loving-kindness, and protection run throughout this film. For Christians especially, we can watch this and walk away with our faith in God more deeply affirmed. For Black Christians, we walk away with this reminder from Isaiah 51: the arms of God are not too short to save. We are reminded that he is the same God who said to Moses that he sees the plight of his people and hears their cries (Exodus 3:7).
Strength, courage, beauty, and love are dominant themes of this film. The lasting image of Harriet Tubman we often have is that of the old, stern woman in the chair. Lemmons did a great job of giving us a fuller picture of Harriet who was a woman of faith, determination, and compassion.
Lemmons also said that if enough of us go see this movie then there could be a possibility of a sequel because of the sheer amount of Civil War narrative that was left out.
In the pantheon of movies that take place during slavery, “Harriet” is a breath of fresh air and worth the watch.