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Harriet

Aside from the assistance that the formerly enslaved Harriet Tubman got from the Underground Railroad­, it’s hard to imagine exactly how she pulled off all her heroics. With Harriet, audiences are given a live-action reimagining of Harriet Tubman’s journey to self-liberation: changing her name, hiding in bales of hay, being chased by dogs, and getting cornered by armed men on a bridge before jumping into the river. Harriet shows how Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) got help from a secret network of safe houses and trusted free Blacks (Leslie Odom Jr. and Janelle Monáe) who stuck their necks out to help her cause. Throughout the film, the only music you’ll hear, gladly, are negro spirituals—songs that enslaved Blacks used to express their sorrow and joy, and to secretly communicate. (Tubman, who was nicknamed Moses, would sing “Go Down Moses” as a signal to enslaved Blacks that she was in the area, and would help anyone who wished to escape.) Harriet doesn’t subject the sensitive viewer to excessive gore or violence (though there is one particularly unsettling scene), because for once, this is a story in the “slave movie” genre about tremendous triumph, leadership, and Tubman’s unwavering faith, both in God and herself.

by Jenni Moore
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Trailer

Credits
Director
Kasi Lemmons
Cast
Janelle Monáe, Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom