Starring: Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, Janelle Monáe, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Clarke Peters
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Bio-drama directed and co-written by Kasi Lemmons. Based on the life of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo), who escaped slavery and led hundreds of enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.
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Our Favorite Quotes:'Fear is your enemy. Trust in God. The North Star will guide you. Follow that North Star.' - Reverend Green (Harriet) Click To Tweet 'I prayed for God to make me strong enough to fight. And that’s what I prayed for ever since. I reasoned that there was one or two things I had a right to. Liberty or death. If I couldn’t have one, I’d have the other.' - Harriet Click To Tweet
Harriet Tubman: John and me, we want our babies born free like they supposed to be.
Reverend Green: Maybe nobody noticed you’re gone. Maybe you, you sneak back fore daylight.
Harriet Tubman: I ain’t going back. I want to be free.
Reverend Green: There’s not much time. It’s near midnight. You got to be miles away from here fore dawn. Now, I need you to remember what I tell you. Can you do that?
Harriet Tubman: Yes, sir.
Reverend Green: Fear is your enemy. Trust in God. The North Star will guide you. Follow that North Star. If there are no stars, just follow the river. If you can’t see the river, listen for it. When the river split, cross the high bridge over the rushing creek, and head straight north. After a few days time, Delaware River be on your right. Follow that to Wilmington. Look for a blacksmith and iron merchant named Thomas Garrett. I’ll send him word. May God be with you, child.
[as Harriet is about to jump over the bridge]
Gideon Brodess: Woh, easy now. Easy now. Now, I’ve decided not to sell you after all. Fact is, I’d miss you. Now, you been there all my life, like your mama was all my daddy’s. Daddy vowed never to sell your mama. And I’m vowing never to sell you. Now, you can come on back, and I won’t hurt you bad. You can stay at home, stay with John, stay with us. Would you like that?
Harriet Tubman: I’m going to be free or die.
Thomas Garrett: Here we are, friend. Pennsylvania border. Shall I drive thee across, or would thee prefer to walk alone into freedom?
Harriet Tubman: I walk with the Lord.
Philly Vendor: Don’t be afraid. There are plenty of us here in Philadelphia. Walk like you got a right to, won’t nobody pay you no mind.
[he give Harriet an apple]
Harriet Tubman: Thank you.
William Still: Who’d you make the journey with?
Harriet Tubman: I left my husband and family. It was just me and the Lord.
William Still: Well, I don’t know if you know how extraordinary this is, but by some miraculous means, you have made it one hundred miles to freedom, all by yourself. Would you like to pick a new name to mark your freedom? Most ex-slaves do. Any name you want.
Harriet Tubman: They call my mama Rit, but her name Harriet. I want my mama name and my husband. Harriet Tubman.
William Still: Harriet Tubman.
[referring to Harriet’s visions]
William Still: What do you mean you saw it before it happened?
Harriet Tubman: Well, God showed me, to prepare me, I guess. But when it happened, it hurt so bad. Worse than any beating. Worse than the hole in my head. Hole in my head just made God’s voice more clear.
William Still: Harriet, I can’t have you risking your life, or this network, because you’re lonely. Rescuing slaves requires skill and careful planning. It requires reading, Harriet! Can you read a sign or a map? Can you read at all?
Harriet Tubman: I put my attention on trying to hear God’s voice more clearly.
William Still: Do you know what would happen if you got caught? They would torture you until you pointed them right to this office. You got lucky, Harriet. And there’s nothing more you can do.
Harriet Tubman: Don’t you tell me what I can’t do. I made it this far on my own. God was watching, but my feet was my own. Running, bleeding, climbing, nearly drowned, nothing to eat for days and days, but I made it! So don’t you tell me what I can’t do. You don’t know me.
Harriet Tubman: I made up my mind, I’m going back. Without my husband and my family, I’m just a stranger in a strange land. If I’m free, they should be too. I’m going to go get them, one by one, starting with my husband.
[Marie is helping Harriet to act and look like a free woman]
Marie Buchanon: You’re confident, composed, wise enough to know not to look a strange white man in the eyes. You don’t want no trouble.
[Marie gets a gun out of the drawer and gives it to Harriet]
Marie Buchanon: But if trouble comes, you’ll be ready.
[Harriet gives him her ID papers]
Marshal: Dessa Dixon?
Harriet Tubman: Yes, sir.
Marshal: Where were you born, Dessa?
Harriet Tubman: Philadelphia. July 18, 1824, of free issue.
Marshal: It says here, you’re five and a half feet tall. You ain’t more than five feet.
[we see Harriet get hold of her gun behind her back]
Harriet Tubman: I must’ve worn my high boots that day.
Marshal: Says you got a birthmark on your forehead.
Harriet Tubman: That’s correct, sir.
[she shows him on her forehead, after a pause the marshal hands her papers back]
Harriet Tubman: Thank you, sir.
[after Harriet successfully makes it to John’s homestead to bring him back with her]
John Tubman: Why you back here? It ain’t safe.
Harriet Tubman: I come to get you, bring you to freedom. I got you a suit. I’ve been living free in Philadelphia, but I can’t live without you. Ain’t you happy to see me?
John Tubman: I heard you were drowned, Minty. Never thought I’d see you again.
John Tubman: Mint, I’m married.
Harriet Tubman: I know you’re married. You’re married to me.
John Tubman: I took another wife.
Harriet Tubman: Took another wife?
John Tubman: Her name Caroline. She free like me. She carrying our child.
Harriet Tubman: Another woman carrying your child? I thought you loved me.
[to a devastated Harriet]
John Tubman: I love you like I ain’t loved nobody. Not my own kin. You left me, Minty. You left me. You went alone and left me. And I prayed for you. Gideon whipped the sight out of my eye. And I prayed for you. When I heard you jumped off that bridge, and I thought you were cold and dead, caught in the river weeds, like some animal, I prayed for you.
Harriet Tubman: You took another wife. Go on, then. Go on home.
John Tubman: Minty, you’re not safe here. You got to leave now.
Harriet Tubman: Go on home!
John Tubman: I love you, Minty. I love you. I would’ve died for you.
[Harriet pushes him away as she sobs]
Harriet Tubman: Stop.
John Tubman: If you’d have let me.
[he leaves as Harriet sobs]
[after finding out that John had remarried]
Harriet Tubman: Why, Lord? I listen for your voice. You told me to come, I came. You led me here. Why bring me all this way and rub mud in my face? Why you let me live?
[as she’s helping slaves to escape]
Harriet Tubman: You call me Harriet from now on. That’s my freedom name. I’m Harriet Tubman, leader of this group. We do what I say.
[referring to John]
Harriet Tubman: His wife is a free woman. Big with his child. John didn’t want my babies. Couldn’t bear the thought of them growing up being slaves.
Marie Buchanon: Harriet, you are so far beyond any man I have ever met. So far beyond. What’s a man to a woman touched by God?
Harriet Tubman: You making fun of me, Marie?
Marie Buchanon: No, not whatsoever.
Marie Buchanon: You say that God’s voice guides you. What’s that like?
Harriet Tubman: Sometime it sting. Like a smack in the face. Other time it’s soft. Like a dream. Fly off soon as you woke. Seem like I learned to see and hear God like some learn to read a book. I put all my attention on it. Act without question. Fore I can wonder, if I even heard it at all. Fore I can understand what it mean. I thought God wanted me to go get my husband. John was just a way to steer me to where I was needed.
Harriet Tubman: There I was with a suit, and no husband. I felt a fool.
William Still: He’s the fool.
Harriet Tubman: God have other plans for me, Mr. Still.
William Still: I’m beginning to understand that.
Harriet Tubman: My sister’s in danger. You told me you could rescue her.
William Still: I told you I’d try, and we have. She works in the Brodess house. She’s been impossible to reach.
Harriet Tubman: I can reach her.
William Still: No! It’s reckless to try something like that right now. I forbid it.
Harriet Tubman: You forbid it?
William Still: Harriet, these are dangerous times. Everybody everywhere is looking for you!
Harriet Tubman: They’re looking for Moses. I’m going back.
[to the Quakers and other abolitionists]
Harriet Tubman: I ain’t giving up rescuing slaves because it’s far. Many of you don’t know slavery firsthand. You were born free. You’ve been free so long, you forget what it’s like. You’ve gotten comfortable and important. You got beautiful homes, beautiful wives. But I remember.
Harriet Tubman: I’m going to do what I got to do, go wherever I got to go, however I got to do it, to free as many slaves as possible, till this beast, this monster called slavery is slain dead.
[to Harriet as they are helping slaves to escape]
Walter: We’re going to need a bigger cart.
Gideon Brodess: Even now, you’re mine.
Harriet Tubman: I was never yours, Gideon. I was never nobody’s property. Ever since your daddy sold my sisters, I prayed for God to make me strong enough to fight. And that’s what I prayed for ever since. I reasoned that there was one or two things I had a right to. Liberty or death. If I couldn’t have one, I’d have the other.
[pointing her rifle at Gideon]
Harriet Tubman: You’re going to die right here. On a freezing, blood-soaked battlefield. The moans of a generation of young men, dying around you in agony, for a lost cause. For a vile and wicked idea. For the sin of slavery. Can you hear them?
[she shoots into the air then drops her rifle to the ground]
Harriet Tubman: God don’t mean people to own people, Gideon! Our time is near.
Harriet Tubman: [to Gideon] You tried to destroy my family, but you can’t. You tried to destroy my people, but you won’t. God has shown me the future, and my people are free. My people are free!
[two years into the Civil War we see Harriet addressing the African-American Union soldiers]
Harriet Tubman: Suppose there’s a snake coiled at your feet, and it shoots up to bite you. Folks get scared and send for a doctor to cut out the bite. But the snake, he roll up there. And while the doctor cutting, he bites you again, in a new place this time. Finally you realize the snake ain’t going to stop till someone kills it. Slavery is still alive. Those rice fields downriver are feeding rebel troops with the toil of a thousand slaves still in bondage. Our mission is to free those slaves. We’ve waited years to be allowed to fight in this war against our own enslavement, and it will not be won without us. Now is our time. You ready to kill the snake?
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