How Historically Accurate Was The Harriet Tubman Biopic?

Harriet dressed in her red coat

History has been confirmed to not solely be written by the winners, but additionally by those that select to inform it. And because the particular person behind the pen varies occasionally, numerous variations of the story informed in movies like co-writer/director Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet will embrace sure accuracies and inaccuracies. That’s normally as a result of the artists concerned in such biopics wish to create a crossroads between historic truth and symbolic legend, bringing the historical past of figures like Harriet Tubman to life in a method that the textbook can not.

It’s these variations we’ll be discussing right now, as Harriet does have a pair shocking innovations up its narrative sleeve, and so they’re included for compelling causes. What’s much more compelling is the truth that there’s additionally a superb quantity of issues that the movie received appropriate, because it took the chance to straighten out the legacy of the true Harriet Tubman on this biopic.

While this received’t be a definitive listing of what Harriet will get proper or fallacious, these are essentially the most notable examples we’ve seen in our analysis. We’ll begin with one of the crucial shocking information that Harriet delivered to its viewers, and all of it has to do with Ms. Tubman’s very freedom.

Harriet hiding behind a tree

Harriet Tubman Was Legally Free Before She Escaped

In Harriet, we see the important thing authorized level of Cynthia Erivo’s Harriet, who glided by Araminta or “Minty” earlier in her life, being often known as a freed slave. One of essentially the most shocking information that Kasi Lemmons depicted from Harriet Tubman’s life was the truth that she and her siblings have been free, per a authorized settlement that acknowledged that her mom, Rit Green, can be freed previous the age of 45.

On prime of Rit’s personal freedom, any kids born previous that age would even be manumitted, as per authorized verbiage instituted by her earlier proprietor. But as we noticed in Harriet, the household that owned Harriet and her household wouldn’t honor that authorized declare, and to combat it might have price an excessive amount of and brought an excessive amount of time.

Harriet Gideon Brodess pulling his gun in the foods

Joe Alwyn’s Harriet Character Is A Fabrication

This leads into one in every of Harriet’s largest fabrications, as Joe Alwyn’s character, Gideon Brodess, the supposed grandson of plantation proprietor Edward Brodess, is the chief antagonist in the case of the pursuit of the escaped Harriet Tubman. In actual life, Jonathan Brodess was the son of Eliza, who was performed by Jennifer Nettles within the movie.

And whereas some historic paperwork have been a bit obscure on what kind of position her son performed within the historical past of the Brodess plantation, Eliza was nicely documented as being not so nice, and probably even worse than she was depicted within the movie. So Gideon is extra of a fictional composite of behaviors in each his household, in addition to tradition itself.

Harriet kneeling in the woods, by the water

Harriet Tubman Really Did Have Visions

Throughout Harriet, Cynthia Erivo’s incarnation of Harriet Tubman is seen to have virtually divine visions of the longer term. She falls into trance-like spells the place she loses consciousness, and sees the trail forward in life with a level of readability that could possibly be known as clairvoyant. As shocking as it might appear, that is one thing that was captured as a little bit of reality in Harriet’s private historical past.

Stemming from a childhood damage that noticed a two-pound weight hanging her within the head, Harriet Tubman was thought to have suffered from a type of Epilepsy on account of her damage, in line with historian Kate Larson. Tubman noticed these visions as messages from God, and as such, Harriet depicts them with a sure diploma of historic accuracy.

Harriet sitting in William Still's office

When Harriet Tubman Changed Her Name Is Up For Debate

A large second in Harriet happens when our topic lastly reaches Philadelphia after making an traditionally correct crossing to freedom. Finding her technique to the workplace of abolitionist William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.), the girl beforehand often known as Araminta Ross chooses her new identify proper there in his workplace. “Minty” no extra, Harriet Tubman is born and a legend is fashioned. While she did change her identify, when precisely Araminta Ross turned Harriet Tubman is up for dialogue, as there are a few totally different tales surrounding that occasion.

One account says she modified her identify as soon as she had married her husband, John Tubman, whereas one other follows the historical past that the Harriet Tubman biopic chooses to depict. In both case, it was after her marriage to John that the choice to vary her identify had occurred, with Tubman taking her new first identify from her mom’s full identify, which was shortened to “Rit,” a lot as Araminta was often known as “Minty.”

Harriet Marie Buchanon in front of a staircase

Janelle Monae’s Harriet Character Is A Fabrication As Well

During her acclimation to life in Philadelphia, Harriet Tubman is launched to a lady named Marie Buchanon, performed by Janelle Monáe. The proprietor of an inn that additionally helped resettle escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, Marie is a key determine in aiding Harriet’s protagonist into her new life. And because it seems, she doesn’t exist in historical past in any respect.

That’s to not say there weren’t black feminine proprietors in that period, permitting Marie to exist in historic spirit. But somewhat, Marie herself is a fabricated character, very similar to Joe Alwyn’s Gideon Brodess. Both resemble attitudes and mores of the period they stay in, in addition to different individuals that existed. However, they by no means existed as actual folks.

Harriet raising up a gun to protect herself

Harriet Tubman Actually Did Use Guns

The last historic level that Harriet delivered to mild is, because it seems, a real story. While some could have assumed that Cynthia Erivo’s tough and tumble model of Harriet Tubman was merely a picture that director Kasi Lemmons had in thoughts for the character, the a part of the story the place Tubman turns into a gun-toting badass is definitely true.

In truth, Lemmons acknowledged that historical past really softened Harriet’s picture in order that her story can be simpler to show these studying of her historical past. But, because it seems, Tubman was really comfy dealing with not solely a pistol, but additionally a sharpshooter’s rifle, each of that are seen in her fingers throughout numerous factors of Harriet’s cinematic historical past lesson.

With the movie opening somewhat nicely in theaters final weekend, Harriet will undoubtedly proceed to draw the eye of those that wish to be taught extra concerning the historical past of this typically mythologized determine. As such, maintaining a tally of what’s true and what’s dramatized can be key in serving to the general public decode who Harriet Tubman actually was, and it’s the place guides like this can actually come in useful.

Harriet is in theaters now, prepared for audiences to expertise its mixture of historic reality and cinematic fantasy.


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