Aside from one miniseries 40 years ago, the legendary freedom fighter’s story has never been properly adapted for the screen. The long wait is over.
When Kasi Lemmons got the prospect to direct the primary feature-length biopic regarding Tubman, she faced a delicate challenge.
“I extremely needed to form a movie that a classy 10-year-old might see along with his granny, which isn’t easy for a film that takes place during slavery”, and then I needed to essentially be ready to represent Harriet as accurately as I might, while still making an entertaining movie that would reach a broad audience.”
Tubman’s extraordinary tale has been iconic for generations: Her escape from slavery and the ability to free hundreds of slaves forever changed the course of history.
It never happened. According to Davis, speaking with Entertainment Weekly in 2016: “The reason her life has not been honored, the reason people don’t know what she contributed, is because she’s a black woman.
She was born a slave. If you research the history of anyone WHO contributed to the country WHO weren’t white males, their contributions are continually reduced.”
The movie was primarily shot in central Virginia, where the production team capitalized on a large collection of backlots from previous period productions of TV miniseries like “John Adams,” and films like “Lincoln.” Lemmons said that backdrop made for a particularly emotional shoot.
“We shot on a plantation that was once home to something like a thousand slaves, and other places where enslaved people had lived, suffered and died for many years” ,and yes, it was at times very tough, but also elevating in a way, because you come to see what we have to face as a country if we’re going to heal.
Tubman’s story has taken on new resonance in 2019, as the movie opens in a violently divided America in which Tubman’s own legacy continues to struggle for appreciation.
In 2016, the Obama Administration announced that the $20 bill would be redesigned by 2020, removing the face of Andrew Jackson, a president who also owned slaves, and replacing it with anti-slavery activist Tubman.