Harriet ~ A Review

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John (Zackary Momoh) and Minty (Cynthia Erivo)

The jewel in Harriet is black love. The film opens with it. As I watched John and Minty/Harriet Tubman love up on each other in the establishing shot, I did not care what happened next. I just didn’t. They hugged–tightly. They kissed–passionately. They hugged again–tightly. He, a free man, married an enslaved woman. She, after taking her freedom, came back for him. Yes, he did what he did later but only on news of her “death”.  Then, to see her father — to see the love in his eyes for his girl and the trust he had in her decision to run — I thought of my own father.
Harriet Tubman was loved. She was respected. She was believed in and on. She was trusted. Her mother loved her and said it. Her father loved her and said it. All of her brothers and sisters loved her and said it. Her husband loved her; believed in her. He would have died for her, if she had let him. The pastor loved and believed in her. It is he who entrusts her with the routes and names of people who will facilitate her journey. Those enslaved believed in her. All hugged her neck on every visit. Be not mistaken: Harriet Tubman loved them back. Harriet is love.
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Minty/Harriet w/ her pastor Rev. Green (Vondie Curtis-Hall)

What struck me was how the men–black and white–protected her. Oh. How they protected her. A white farmer knows Harriet is hiding in the back of his wagon but, to paraphrase Zora Neale Hurston, he ‘takes her a piece of the way with him’ then moves aside for her to continue on her mission. After witnessing the beauty of Harriet’s crossing of the river, another young black man joins her venture. Later, he provides safe passage for her family. There’s more. White men in Philadelphia draw their rifles on her enslaver when he tries to kill her on the wharf.  In tandem, the young black men on the docks in that same city secure her safety. That’s love.
The director, Kasi Lemmons, has prepared for us a most refreshing dramatization of the community of enslaved people that thrived during a time when white plantation owners considered people of African descent nothing but property. She also takes us on the inside of the free black community in Philadelphia and portrays their support of the enslaved who dared to take their freedom. Marie Buchanan, a free-born black woman in Philadelphia, embraces Harriet in her home as she would a sister. In addition, Lemmons makes known the white Americans, across social class, who, in their own way, resisted the institution of slavery; that there were black men–young men–who, in this story, made possible Harriet’s successful enterprise.
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Marie (Janelle Monae) teaches Harriet

On the whole, Harriet tells us that when you are loved up on and validated in your own church, community, and family, you can cross the river to the other side and with others in tow. You can return again and again. You can live to tell it. That’s love.
Glory.
Let us pray.
Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Tony Martin

     /  November 10, 2019

    Very nice review. I have not seen the movie yet, but I know I’ll still enjoy it, while gaining new knowledge of who she was, and what kept her motivated. No spoiler alert necessary. Thank you.

    Reply

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