Harriet – Extra Credit
Out of the three movies I’ve seen this semester, I enjoyed this one the most. It had a clear narrative, gave me new info that I didn’t know about Harriet Tubman, and was done well with beautiful cinematography and good acting (and did not have distracting CGI fighter planes and explosions). This Harriet, the way she is portrayed in the film, is a feminist hero. She doesn’t let men stop her from achieving her goals. And she is brave, bordering on fearless, and incredibly strong, both mentally and physically.
I had a few questions which I was able to find out the answers to:
- Did she actually have visions from God? Yes, she believed they were visions sent to her from God, and she suffered all her life with seizures, migraines, and narcolepsy from the brain injury she sustained when she was younger.
- Was her mother and the rest of her family freed in a will? Yes.
- Was there a real Gideon Brodess? Apparently not. This part was made up, but I loved how Harriet left him with his bleeding hand and told him that he was going to die on a battlefield in a couple of years. So, since he didn’t exist we can’t check on the accuracy of that prediction. But Edward and Eliza Brodess, Gideon’s parents, were both real people and Harriet and her family’s owners. It was the death of Edward that spurred on Harriet to leave because she was about to be sold.
- Did she actually lead a company of Black soldiers in the Civil War? Yep, and it looks like during that engagement, they may have freed up to 750 slaves.
- How many slaves did Harriet free? The movie’s total is more likely accurate at 70 though in her biography published in 1869, she said she had freed 300. Since she only made 13 trips on the URR before the Civil War, 70 is much more likely number.
- I knew that William Still was a real person, but what about Marie Buchanon? No, Marie was not a real person, but there were many free blacks in Philadelphia who owned their own businesses like Marie.
Questions I’d like you to answer:
- Talk about the power of family and their connections – Harriet and her family – and compare that to the portrayal of the Brodess family in the film.
- Do you agree that Harriet’s portrayal in the film is that of a feminist hero? Why or why not? Provide some specifics to back up your assertion. Also, do you think that this portrayal has been influenced by the writer and director of the film, Kasi Lemmons, a black woman? Why or why not?
- News surfaced a few weeks ago that Julia Roberts (a white woman) was initially considered for the role of Harriet Tubman when the idea of a film was pitched over 20 years ago. Discuss how much Hollywood has changed in the portrayal of people of color and also how important it is for people of color and LGBTQ folks to see themselves accurately portrayed in the media.
- What did you think of the portrayal of Bigger Long and Walter, both free blacks who worked with Gideon to recover Harriet and her family? This was a real practice to use both black and white slave hunters, and according to an article, $200 was really hard to pass up. What does the existence of free black slave trackers say about money and the institution of slavery? Why?