Cynthia Erivo stars as Harriet Tubman in HARRIET, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Glen Wilson / Focus Features, used with permission

In theaters nationwide on November 1, HARRIET stars Cynthia Erivo as one of our nation’s most courageous and yet somehow largely unknown historical figures.

As the film opens, we meet Harriet Tubman as “Minty” (a nickname from her birthname “Araminta Ross”). She is an enslaved woman, the wife of a free Black man named Junyah (CJ McBath), and a loving daughter and sister. These relationships are significant in that they lie at the heart of Tubman’s continual drive to risk her life for her mission of liberating others, especially her family.

Faith and how it drives us to act are also key components of HARRIET. We witness Tubman in many of the dream-state spells she has as a result of a traumatic head injury. Combined with her strongly Methodist upbringing, these encounters with the Divine impact and overtake Harriet throughout her life, convincing her that she cannot rest once her own personal liberty is won through a daring escape.

Surviving her terrifying solo journey to freedom, Harriet Tubman arrives eventually in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Here she joins an operation already in place and being led by abolitionists William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Marie Buchanan (Janelle Monáe). Unable to rest in her newfound freedom, Tubman soon begins her own work along the Underground Railroad. Despite the increasing price placed on her head and the rabid pressure of her former slave owner Gideon (Joe Alwyn), Harriet won’t quit.

We journey with Erivo’s bodacious Tubman into repeated and increasingly risky missions to liberate growing numbers of slaves. Her mythical reputation grows causing the diminutive but bold woman to earn the nickname “Moses.” As the stakes heighten, so does Harriet’s courage and her bravado.


(l-r) Actors Cynthia Erivo and Joe Alwyn with Director Kasi Lemmons on the set of her
film HARRIET, a Focus Features release.
Credit: Glen Wilson / Focus Features, used with permission.

It’s likely that historical liberties were taken to amp up the storytelling here, but the outcome is a film that inspires the viewer to leave the theater with a desire to better know Harriet Tubman and her life’s true account. Masterfully directed by Kasi Lemmons, HARRIET is an important film in that it acquaints many of us — perhaps sadly for the very first time — with the life of a remarkable woman whose legacy also included serving the Union Army and on the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement. Films such as this one have the capacity to invite us into a far deeper consideration of heroes such as Tubman and to rise to our own divinely inspired missions.


Based on the thrilling and inspirational life of an iconic American freedom fighter, HARRIET tells the extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes. Her courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

Inspired by the courage of Harriet Tubman’s life, HARRIET is an artful retelling of a too-little-known chapter in our nation’s history. Cynthia Erivo stands out in her portrayal of a visionary Civil Rights leader who would not rest until freedom for all was assured and secured. The film provides an important reminder that we cannot give up fighting on behalf of the life and liberty of souls around the world who continue to be persecuted.

HARRIET is rated PG-13 for thematic content throughout, violent material and language including racial epithets.

Copyright 2019 Lisa M. Hendey


About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

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