Harriet (2019)

Kasi Lemmons started her entertainment career as an actress — she was Bernie in — before starting to direct. The movie I remember her for most is The Caveman’s Valentine. A film about Harriet Tubman was rumored for years and I’m quite glad she got the job, as this is a movie that moves quickly and imparts plenty of emotion and history without feeling preachy or boring. That’s quite a feat for a historical film.

Cynthia Erivo, who was in the stage revival of The Color Purple and who has been great on The Outsider every week, plays Harriet throughout her life, as she escapes from slavery (choosing to either live free or die) and then continually comes back to help others escape. It’s a harrowing tale filled with twists that history class never taught me, such as the fact that the man who gave her the last name Tubman remarried, as everyone in her family believed that she died after she jumped off a bridge to escape her owner Gideon Brodess.

Leslie Odom Jr., who was the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton, is in this, as is Janelle Monáe, a freewoman whose sophisticated ways are in direct contrast to young Harriet.

I would have never watched this movie if not for a freelance assignment where I’ve been creating teacher guides for biographical films. So in some strange way, the predicament of my occupation has led to me experiencing plenty of new things I would have otherwise never had the opportunity to see, listen, watch or learn.

You don’t need to go through all that to see this. I recommend you watch it at your first opportunity.

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