Abolitionist Harriet Tubman led an extraordinary life dedicated to the anti-slavery movement. After she escaped her master and joined the Underground Railroad, she guided more than 300 slaves to freedom over the span of a decade. During the Civil War, she served in the Union as a cook, a nurse and even a spy.
Remarkable is an understatement to describe one of America's greatest heroes, and her story finally gets the big screen treatment. HARRIET is the first major motion picture about Tubman, her incredible journey and unbreakable spirit.
Recently, AMC sat down with HARRIET director Kasi Lemmons and stars Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. to discuss the significance of the film and Tubman's accomplishments. What surprised Lemmons during her research was that Tubman's motivation began with her family.
"I think it makes her so much more accessible, as opposed to her heroism being abstract, that it was motivated by something we can all relate to, which is wanting to save her family," Lemmons said.
After Tubman first fled from Maryland to Pennsylvania, she came back to get her husband. "Learning that she put love first is really a wonderful thing for me," Erivo echoed. "It meant that she is sort of grounded."
In total, she returned to the South 19 times to lead her siblings, parents and other slaves to freedom. She was so successful, she became known among the slave owners out to get her as "Moses" — she was assumed to be a man.
"It’s the idea that if a young, small woman with very little means can take her determination and her knowledge of what is right in the world and change the world, we have no excuse," Erivo said. Hear more in our exclusive interview.
It's worth noting that though Tubman is the main focus of the film, there is another important historical figure you will meet in HARRIET. William Still, played by Leslie Odom Jr., was the father of the Underground Railroad and one of the first people Tubman met when she arrived in Pennsylvania. "William was full bodied on the front lines of the moment, of the revolution... very different life from Harriet, very different portrait of black life," Odom explained.
William Still was born free, but his mother was a slave who had to leave her other children behind when she escaped (after her third try). That stayed with Still and fueled his fire to fight against slavery.
The only way to truly understand the historical significance and emotional impact of Tubman's story is to see HARRIET on the big screen. The biopic opens this weekend at an AMC theatre near you, so get tickets now.