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First Look at New Harriet Tubman Biopic as Trailer Released This Week

Cynthia Erivo from the musical "The Color Purple" stars as Harriet Tubman in a new biopic to be released this November. (Photo: YouTube)
Cynthia Erivo from the musical "The Color Purple" stars as Harriet Tubman in a new biopic to be released this November. (Photo: YouTube)

The trailer for the upcoming biopic Harriet, about the famed abolitionist, suffragette and conductor of the underground railroad was released this week.

Tony-award winning actress Cynthia Erivo (the musical “The Color Purple”) will portray Harriet Tubman, a runaway slave who became a leader in freeing other slaves during the second half of the 1800s.

Directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) the biopic will also explore lesser-known parts of the historic woman’s life, such as her battle with epilepsy, her involvement in a unit of the Union Army during the Civil War, and her doomed marriage to a free black man named John Tubman while she was still a slave. Under such conditions, any children born to such a marriage would be enslaved.

Born into slavery in Maryland, Harriet Tubman eventually escaped to Philadelphia in 1849 and returned numerous times to help family and fellow slaves make the same journey to freedom. Such covert treks would have to occur at night, hence the nickname “the underground railroad”. Fellow abolitionists would nickname Tubman as “Moses”, after the biblical prophet who led the Hebrews to freedom from Egypt—although her identity was carefully guarded to prevent capture.

Tubman would live long past the official abolishment of slavery in the U.S., when she passed away in 1913 at the age of 91.

In her later years, she had also become active in the women’s suffrage movement, working alongside famed suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland. Tubman traveled to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., to speak in favor of women’s voting rights.

Tubman’s legacy is profound enough that she was picked as the replacement for President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, in a survey conducted by the Treasury Department during Barack Obama’s presidency. This would make her the first black woman to appear on U.S. currency. However, plans for this to happen in 2020 have been delayed for another decade.

Controversy has surrounded the process, including President Trump criticizing Tubman as a replacement during his 2016 presidential campaign—deeming it as “pure political correctness”.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has since insisted that the delay is solely due to counterfeiting issues and not political reasons.

Harriet will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2019, and is scheduled to be theatrically released in the United States on November 1, 2019, by Focus Features. Also starring in the film are Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles and Janelle Monáe.

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