Here’s What Harriet Got Wrong About Harriet Tubman’s Life

Here’s What Harriet Got Wrong About Harriet Tubman’s Life


2019’s Harriet marks the first feature film
about Harriet Tubman. While great care was taken to present the
real Tubman, a few creative liberties were taken, to better illustrate her world and
the values she stood for. Here are some of the things Harriet got wrong
about Harriet Tubman’s life. When Harriet opens, we are introduced to a
young woman named “Minty,” short for Araminta Ross. Fiery and fearless, it quickly becomes apparent
that this is the woman who will become known as Harriet Tubman. Minty’s first major action in the film is
escaping her master’s plantation. When she ends the harrowing journey, arriving
in Pennsylvania as a free woman, she marks the occasion by adopting a new name: Harriet,
the first name of her mother, and Tubman, the surname of her husband whom she had to
leave behind. The film uses this scene to emphasize Tubman’s
commitment to her family, and also introduce audiences to William Still, a black abolitionist
and colleague of Tubman’s, who records the name change. This was a real, important ritual carried
out by many former slaves, later being revived by activists such as Muhammad Ali and Malcolm
X. “Would you like to pick a new name to mark
your freedom? Most ex-slaves do. Any name you want.” But the powerful scene never actually happened. While Tubman and Still did really work together,
their relationship likely began after Tubman had become a conductor on the Underground
Railroad. Additionally, the Harriet Tubman Historical
Society says Minty was already going by “Harriet Tubman” by the time she escaped to freedom. Little is known about the real John Tubman,
or his five-year marriage to Harriet. But it’s not likely that he was as supportive
of the real Harriet as the fictional version is. In an early biography about Harriet, written
by Sarah Hopkins Bradford, John is painted in a less-than flattering light, condescending
and dismissive of his wife, even personally capturing her during an attempted escape. Later biographers, like Kate Clifford Larson,
have challenged Bradford’s depiction claiming him instead to be a lovestruck and devoted
man who may have even been saving to buy his wife’s freedom. But whoever John was, the truth is he was
never supportive of Harriet’s decision to escape, and in fact threatened to turn Harriet
in, likely fearful his involvement in her escape would jeopardize his own freedom and
livelihood. Family meant everything to Harriet Tubman,
who was willing to risk so much to ensure their comfort and safety. But in Harriet, the real history has been
altered to direct her affections more toward her husband John. After arriving in Pennsylvania, Tubman lamented
that there was no one to welcome her to the land of freedom, with her family remaining
in captivity in Maryland. In Harriet, she specifically yearns for her
husband, and is inspired to become a conductor on the Underground Railroad to go back and
get him. But the Harriet Tubman Historical Society
says her first return was actually to save her niece and her niece’s two children from
being sold further south. Tubman’s first rescue was a resounding success,
and fortified her determination to free more and more people. By the time Harriet conducted her last mission,
at the onset of the Civil War, nearly all of her family had been successfully freed. Among writer/director Kasi Lemmons’ goals
in creating Harriet was a desire to fully realize the less-considered elements of the
world in which Harriet Tubman lived. One such element that is well-known to historians
but not always addressed in films is the degree to which slavery contributed to the livelihood
of individual families. Not long into Harriet, we learn that the Brodess
estate is in great financial trouble, and that the family must weigh the option of selling
some of their slaves or risk losing their property altogether. When he inherits the estate from his late
father, Gideon Brodess makes the decision to sell Minty for extra money. The plot line develops Minty and Gideon’s
relationship, and introduces the cat and mouse narrative that is constant in Tubman’s life. But while the Brodess’ financial woes were
reportedly real, there’s no reason to believe that Tubman was tipped off, let alone directly
told about about the family’s plan to sell her further south. After the death of her owner Edward Brodess
made it clear that her life would once again most likely be upset by change, Tubman would
commit herself to escape, altering the course of her life, as well as that of American history. At the age of 12, while intervening in a conflict
between a slave and their master, Tubman was struck in the skull with a weight, fracturing
her skull and giving her permanent brain damage. A deeply religious person, when Tubman began
experiencing hallucinations as a result of her injury, she attributed them to God, interpreting
them as warnings. In Harriet, Tubman’s visions are treated as
a completely real ability, a gift of supernatural foresight which she uses to evade slave catchers
and plot her rescue missions. In reality, Tubman’s injury probably did more
harm than good, and certainly wasn’t what carried her along on her many dangerous journeys. According to the Harriet Tubman Historical
Society, once she was old enough to work, Tubman did everything in her power to avoid
domestic chores and being around white women. Working outside in the fields was harsh and
labor-intensive, but in her years spent outdoors, Tubman developed an intimate connection with
the natural world. The Brodess family also frequently lent and
rented their slaves out to neighbors and paying strangers within the area, further expanding
Tubman’s awareness of the topography of Maryland. Contemporaries of Tubman, as well as present
day historians, often marvel at the immense feats Tubman carried out, first by finding
her own way to freedom, and then by aiding the escape of many others. But while Tubman herself would undoubtedly
claim her abilities were aided by her celestial visions, her knowledge and instincts were
probably much more helpful in her long and amazing career as an Underground Railroad
conductor. While Harriet and her mother were slaves for
the Brodess family in real time, there is no record of the family having a child by
the name of Gideon. Many other facts about the family, from the
patriarch’s death to their eventual decline in status and wealth necessitating them to
sell off their slaves, starting with Harriet’s sisters, are true, though no figure in the
family matters to the film more than the fictionalized Gideon. “Whoa, easy now. You can come on back, and I won’t hurt you
bad.” Gideon is arguably the film’s avatar for the
sins of slavery distilled into one person. He is horrible to Harriet and her family;
an early scene shows Gideon sees Harriet as nothing more than a piece of property, comparing
her to owning a pig. Once Harriet escapes, it is Gideon who pursues
her endlessly, obsessed with salvaging what is, in his mind, rightfully his. Like many of the characters created for the
film, Gideon serves an important purpose: he pushes Harriet’s story along and gives
more focus to her story, which in reality was broader and more complicated than the
movie suggests. In the film, William Still takes Harriet directly
from the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society to the home of Marie Buchanon. While she runs a house for newly-freed women
like Harriet, Marie herself was born and raised a free woman in Philadelphia. As such, Marie is a successful business owner. The home she operates provides shelter to
those looking for a new life, but she also helps them find paying jobs and helps to create
a community for those braving the new world alone. While screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard says
it’s highly likely that women like Marie Buchanon existed, and may have even helped runaway
slaves like Harriet, the Marie Buchanon character and the interactions she has with Harriet
are entirely fictionalized. In reality, little is known about how Tubman
lived once she arrived in Pennsylvania. Much of her history revolves around her journey
and experiences with the Underground Railroad, but not where she lived or who exactly helped
her when she first reached freedom. It’s likely Marie Buchanon is a cipher for
someone who may have existed and been able to help Tubman, alone and afraid, find her
footing. Marie is everything Harriet wants to be: poised,
confident, and very sure that no person should ever belong to anyone but themselves. Marie’s support helps validate Harriet’s decision
to go back to Maryland, and Marie’s gun gives her the means to do so with some protection. Regardless of its accuracy, it’s an effective
storytelling choice that helps flesh out the world around Harriet while giving her a worthy
ally. In the film, Harriet’s first trip back to
the farm sees her freeing not only her own brothers, but several others who have heard
of her return and are eager to seek freedom themselves. In total, Harriet escorts nine people back
to Pennsylvania, but not without getting noticed along the way. Gideon, furious at the thought of losing even
more slaves, hires a local bounty hunter named Bigger Long, a black man who hunts and captures
runaway slaves for a hefty fee. While Slate reports it’s been widely speculated
that black bounty hunters like Bigger Long likely existed, there’s no historical record
of anyone by that name operating in Maryland at the time of Tubman’s escape. Bounty hunters like Bigger Long, often referred
to as “Slave Catchers,” were often simply mercenaries were hired by wealthy slave owners
to reclaim what was seen as “stolen property” whenever a slave would run away. At various points in history these figures
were actually law enforcement officials whose official duties included tracking and returning
fugitive slaves. In the film, Bigger Long is depicted as using
a wolf-like dog to help track the slaves; in reality, many mercenaries used bloodhounds
and other highly-trained dogs in their own pursuits. There are some records that seem to indicate
that black headhunters like Bigger Long may have existed in Ohio and Pennsylvania, but
the names are few and far between. By the time the Fugitive Slave Act is passed
in the film, Harriet has already successfully completed so many trips back and forth between
Maryland and Pennsylvania that she’s become one of the most successful conductors the
Underground Railroad has ever seen. She’s so effective, she’s even earned a reputation:
posters all over the South search for the man named Moses, the one setting all of the
slaves free. While it makes for an impressive movie montage,
in reality the Harriet Tubman Historical Society says she would have only completed one, maybe
two trips before the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850. As is shown in the film, the biggest impact
of the Act was the distance slaves would have to travel in order to obtain freedom. Prior to its passing, slaves only needed to
reach states where slavery was already abolished, such as the safe-haven that was Pennsylvania. “They’re getting frustrated with the amount
of runaways. Federal judges, marshalls, and slave catchers
are working together. Even Congress is threatening to pass laws
to appease the South.” The Fugitive Slave Act was also known as the
Compromise of 1850, as it sought to appease the slave owners of the South by allowing
them to recapture people who fled their custody no matter where in the US they may have ended
up. As a result, those seeking asylum were forced
to push further North, all the way to Canada. This extended Tubman’s journey by hundreds
of miles, increasing the risk of capture, but also increasing the likelihood that something
else could go wrong on the journey. Slaves navigated a complicated landscape full
of thick forests, rushing rivers, and a scarcity of food. A longer trip meant more risks, and potential
for complications as a result of food or water shortages along the way. As is shown in the film, Harriet is determined
in the face of such challenges. It may have made her harrowing journeys all
the more impressive had the film stuck to the original timeline, and showed her running
people all the way to Canada, like she did in real life. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Grunge videos about your favorite
movies are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

100 thoughts on “Here’s What Harriet Got Wrong About Harriet Tubman’s Life

  • I think that it's horrible to use her legacy as fiction just to embellish the movie. There are young kids who will watch the movie and think it's all facts!!!! How sad you make a movie about someone so important to the African American culture and make things about her life up to better your movie, was her truth not enough?????

  • Just stating facts, Each time a white person tells a black history story, it changes not putting anything behind why it changes, Im just pointing out it changes, and that why black people always get upset when black history is told by white mouths…. take that how you want, if you're offended by it, ask your self why before typing your reply. Truth is truth.

  • Is this the first featured film about HarrietTubman? What about "AWomanCalledMoses" played by #CicelyTyson in 1978???

  • Who created this video? Delete this shit. This is not the first featured film on #HarrietTubman. #CicerlyTyson played her in "AWomanCalledMoses" in 1978!!!! WTH!!!???

  • All other accounts say she was 13!! And all other acount s say she had visitions and dreams of witch way to go this white man is unbelievable lying white folks never believe there view

  • Over & over again, black citizens have had problems with this film’s depiction of HT. So I suspect it ( the movie) will flop).

  • The 'black slave-catcher' thing is interesting- in Australia, we had 'blacktrackers' – they worked with the local police force (which was obviously smaller in the 19th c, & had to cover more ground)- I believe they went to a state other than their 'state of origin', as it were- so Aboriginal fugitives would not compromise them, by appealing to kinship or the like.
    I know Australia isn't America, obviously, but- it does make you wonder if it's possible.
    I also vaguely remember a doco, 'Slave Catchers, Slave Resisters'- at least the title was something along those lines, I believe it mentioned them as well – don't quote me on it, it has been ages since I saw it.

  • I tried to look online to find any possible long lost ancestors related to Harriet Tubman/Araminta Ross who might still be alive, but my search came up empty. How come Sojourner Truth never met with Harriet to help with the Underground Railroad? She was also born as a slave and also escaped to freedom with her baby girl.

  • How many miles you think Christ walked across water to share his purpose while Our Heavenly Father stilled the waters as Christ walked across it

  • So…….
    If all I had to base early American history upon was from responses in this comment section then I would walk away believing that an all black militia led by an all black military leadership governed by an all black congress whose president was 100% black were the o n l y ones in the entire nation that gave a rip to free the slaves. Caucasian’s, of which in 100% solidarity, were the epitome of evil because of the fact that not o n e of them had a cell in their entire body that would be for even the idea of a free black person.
    Yeh……
    Sounds like another one of those Hollywood scripts.

    However, our true fight is not between black flesh and white flesh.
    It is between darkness and light. Evil and Truth.
    The Truth.
    We’re all created by the same God, for the same purpose. To glorify Him.
    I’m a white dude with as much a righteous hatred
    for slavery as any follower of Jesus has, and should have.
    Divide and conquer. That’s how the Enemy try’s to win.
    What I know is that The Book’s ending is always the same. Never will change.
    The Enemy is defeated.
    ‘ That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow…. and every tongue shall confess,
    …….every eye shall see Him…
    In all that is holy let’s unite, not divide, and lock arms against the Evil that drives the war for our separation.
    May the power of Almighty God, the teaching of His Holy Spirit and the gift of everlasting life only through the Lord Jesus Christ be the life that we choose.
    N o t h I n g defeats Him.

  • tubman was a fake.What big doofy manly looking woman on her period could evade bloodhounds? Just one of many stupid things about her

  • Dont get your history from movies. Read the books and find the truth. There is no reason to be ignorant in this day and time. If you hate to read buy the audiobook instead of music. I started with freddricm Douglass biography and now I have over 30 books. I did not read harriet Tubman biography but now I will make it my mission to get every single text on her life.

  • I am Princeray- one of the most censored Black Men on the World-Wide Internet. Recently, Cynthia Erivo finally publicly admitted that Harriet Tubman was more a predominantly black historical spiritual folk heroine than natural as if its significance had been deliberately suppressed. During African bondage, the fundamental belief and justification for African slavery was that the white race was made in the image and likeness of God and that Adam gave birth to only the white race, and Negroes were pre-Adamite beasts, who could not possibly have been made in God's image and likeness because they are beastlike, immoral, born soul-less and without spirituality. 

    Without mentioning Nat Turner, who was also in his own time (1830s) a divine historial spiritually gifted black hero. Captured on October 30, 1831, a bible in his possession filled with divine symbols and signs was confiscated. Turner’s bible had been formally entered into evidence against him. For about a generation, the Turner bible had been secreted from public eyes. When it appeared at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC in about 2016, his spiritual notes, divine symbols and signs had been removed. Nat Turner’s small Bible is missing its front and back cover. It has lost pages at the beginning and end of the text, losing the entirety of Genesis and parts of Leviticus and Revelation. The first page contains Leviticus 4:32 through Leviticus 6:2.

    According to early sources that I studied, at about twelve years old, Harriet skull was crushed by a vicious blow to the head by a white slave overseer. Courageously, she had deliberately stepped in front of him to block his pursuit to attack a resisting African. Harriet was knocked into a coma. She layed in a coma on rags in a corner of her mother’s slave log cabin quarters from December to March. Harriet returned from the inner or outer dimensional world gifted with extremely vocal, apparent and clear divine spiritual visions and prophecy. She also had absolutely uncanny knowledge about the Northern Star Constellations sacred and central to ancient African Kemetic Mythology, Spirituality and Cosmology for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. Ancient Kemetic Star Charts, and the pyramids are aligned to the Northern Stars and Thuban, the Pole Star. I say that Thuban is too similar to Tubman, Harriet’s chosen name, TO BE BY CHANCE. Thuban was the Pole Star some 5000 years ago during the building the pyramids.

  • If they don't have real info to make a real movie about the great Harriet Tubman, then leave her legacy alone. This movie was an insult to the Harriet Tubman name. No character buildup at all….everything seemed so rushed, and a black bounty hunter? Give me a break. How come he wasn't a slave? If he was a freed slave, why would he happily hire himself out to hunt down runaway slaves? Disappointing movie and that's being kind.

  • In any event, never place the responsibility of YOUR legacy in the hands of those who don't respect you.  This claptrap is the result of what happens when you allow people who comfortably lie about their OWN history, to tell YOUR narrative…

  • Just like overseer on the plantation had blacks to keep other blacks in line. The plantation did send out blacks to stop Harriet before she got too far.

  • You made this video for no complete reason you just want clout this movie was absolutely monumental, historical, and amazing people like you make me sick

  • Its a movie! Its not a freakin Biography! What do we know for a fact!? This woman escaped slavery and went back to free other slaves. A Goddamn hero. Why do people make everything so hard. None of us were there. Who can really tell the true story. Even if you spoke with family members that are still living, its still second hand information. Just celebrate that it happened. Celebrate that she was an exceptional woman. Damn..

  • "While great care was taken to present the real Tubman, a few creative liberties were taken to better illustrate her world and the values she stood for." I'm going to stop watching the video there. If this video is about what the movie got wrong.. HOW would creative liberties better illustrate her world and values??

  • More propoganda. Doing your most to say Bigger long, was a historical figure even if the name is wrong. No
    There is no record of a black mercinary slave catcher during slavery. Say it like it is.

  • See how the enemy work. We are arguing about this movie, Lamar Jackson shamed Tom Brady, the NBA stars are making great money moves, the enemy is planning something big and detrimental to our people.

  • Such a powerful film! Go see it. It was spectacular. Don’t let silly reviews like this distract you to see this amazing film. I am sure that all movies have theatrics. Go see it, you won’t be disappointed.

  • First and foremost, before you accept "Grunge's" assessment, you must ask yourself who is "Grunge?" What is their motive regarding "Harriet"? Yet, more importantly, who do I believe,"Grunge" or Kate Larson (Harriet Tubman Biographer)? I choose to believe Kate Larson! And, I also choose to believe Catherine Clinton's book, "Harriet Tubman: Road To Freedom." "Grunge," What are your sources for this history? You sited Sarah Bradford's books. Yet, that is only one biography on "The Great Harriet Tubman." "Harriet" is an awesome movie! Most of the movie is historically accurate! Both the director Kasi Lemmons and screenplay writer, producer Gregory Allen Howard talked about embellishing the story, adding to the movie "Harriet" by using creative licensing. Read a book on "The Great Harriet Tubman" everyone! Read up on any historical icon before you just take the word of a video! Do the research! Cross reference your subject! Gregory Allen Howard ("Harriet" Screen Play Writer) read 20 books on "The Great Harriet Tubman!" He was also a history major in college! I rest my case!!! SEE THIS GREAT MOVIE ("HARRIET") FOR YOURSELVES AND THEN HAVE A DISCUSSION SESSION! Thank you!!!

  • Great review, but it's hard for to truly believe that God would guide her steps and speak through visions. But I don't expect unbelievers to believe if they can't comprehend faith.

  • That movie is garbage a disrespect of our ancestors and icon.

    Really a Big Black Bounty Hunter. Who kills or attempted to kill Black Women! Really.

    The movie, media have always had a wonderful time controlling the image of Black People and now using an South African to create this garbage shows the director did not do her research on ADOS😢

  • Yeah right….this was probably an attempt to discredit Harriett's true natural abilities. She accomplished what a whole platoon of trained and armed soldiers probably couldn't have pulled off, look at how many times she traveled back and forth to liberate God's chosen people…she HAD to have a God given ability that we think was just an injury.

  • The Fugitive Slave Act was to keep African Americans here. If you were born here, you're an American by force. In the meantime, we had George Washington Carver taking people back to Africa. That was stopped. Now the sanitation headquarters in NYC. So slavery was not a choice Kanye.

  • Another little known fact about her and her efforts was that not all her 'rescues' ran smoothly. Some even after embarking on part of their 'freedom journey' had 2nd thoughts……wanted to turn back believing it was too hard to continue any further. In cases such as this it is purported that she threatened to shoot those that hesitated fearing that such 'returns' would pose a future threat to her operations and ultimately give away vital information about how she 'operated' on the UR.

  • Just like they made up slaves sold slaves but they’re lien because they had knew exactly who they were capturing . Because they wanted to get rid of the Hebrews Israelites ppl so they can take on our birth write. That’s why they changed our names and scattered us all over the world.

  • THE MOVIE IS 💩
    AND NOT A TRUE AND HONEST DEPICTION ABOUT HARRIET TUBMAN.

    IT'S AN INSULT TO HER LEGACY
    AND SHAMEFUL.
    THE NARRATIVE OF THE MOVIE
    IS MOSTLY FRAUDULENT!
    🤬IT!
    🤬THEM!

  • White and black activists such as Levi Coffin, Thomas Garrett, Calvin Fairbank, Charles Torrey, Harriet Tubman and Still were genuine heroes of the Underground Railroad. William Still himself, according to James Horton, recorded the rescue of 649 fugitives sheltered in Philadelphia, including 16 who arrived on one day alone, June 1, 1855, according to Blight. The Railroad’s expansion did not occur until after 1850, following the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act. But very few people, relatively speaking, engaged in its activities. After all, it was illegal to assist slaves escaping to their freedom. Violating the 1850 Act could lead to charges of “constructive treason.” Being an abolitionist or a conductor on the Underground Railroad was according historian Donald Yacovonabout "as popular and as dangerous as being a member of the Communist Party in 1955."

  • I love Harriet Tubman, she is a heroic leader & awesome icon for black women. The problem is Cynthia Erivo was the wrong actress playing her just wrong.

  • Just like all movies, like Roots ( the 1977 and 2016 or 17 version) and the made for t.v. version of the woman called Moses.

  • I liked the movie. If this encourages people to read more about her and help her not to be forgotten, great! Many movies take liberties to facilitate the story line. If this were a documentary, which it is not, I don't think as many people would watch it. If the truth be told, most details of movies are forgotten over time except to the few passionate fans. She was a great woman so much so that there is even enough material to make a second movie.

  • Why do y’all always have to make a video about the negative things, let’s just praise that we had a women, like Harriet Tubman and they wanted to make a movie of her… you wasn’t in the 1800s to see what all she did so shut up damn.

  • Really who cares what they got wrong with the movie ? The movie was great and if people went to see Black Panther then the should be going to see Harriet. She was a hero point blank period.

  • I’m going to be Honest my whole 8th class over 60 kids went to go see this, I thought I learned something. But when I started researching about her because I notice this video and actually cared about watching. Now I know this movie gave me false information about Harriet

  • They made this movie like it should have just been on Lifetime channel with how low quality and inaccurate on Harriet Tubman it is.

  • When you make a historical movie it should be factual to history since I’m hearing that it’s not I will not waste my money of it

  • This movie was crap…….. I want ppl of color not to go waste their hard earned money. I say we start canceling the actress, the director and the ppl connected with this trash of a movie.

  • This is a shameful moment in cinematic history. A native born Black American should have played this role. I also don’t understand how a Black man ended up the villain during the greatest atrocity committed against Black people

  • You can't just be throwing shade like it has to be perfect you act like harriet tubman or someone from 1800 is going to tell what really happened 😡😡😡😡😑😑

  • Thank you for your review. The inaccuracies in the movie are numerous. It is very sad that Kasi Lemmons and others took such liberties with Harriet's story. Harriet Tubman would want the truth about her life told. Not some science fiction movie made of her life.

  • T.V. "tell a vision" We gone tell you the vision👓we want you to have
    about Harriett Tubman's
    life😠See it & hear it how we play!!! STOP: It's amazing how most people in America hear "Amazing Grace" & The Called Out Ones hear the call for YAHUAH our Elohim, to
    avenge us🤔Wait for it…..

  • I hate how this video tries to leave an opening about Bigger Long's "possible" existence during 9:11 – 9:30. We all know damn well that Bigger Long was fictionalized character to depict the true Israelite man as evil and to make racism diverse.

  • THIS IS GOOD MOVIE ABOUT IT
    ALL WOMAN BE FREE FOR LAND PHILADELPHIA THIST 🙏🙏🙏🙏
    THIS THR STORY 👩‍🏫👩‍🏫👩‍🏫 AMEN

  • the title of this video should be called, "here's what a white person thinks about our history." A black woman is telling a black woman's story & per usual someone has a problem with it.

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