Harriet Tubman: The Moses of America
I remember the first multiple-page report I wrote in school. The report was to be a biography of a living person, and needed to be handwritten, with a cover page, pictures, and reference index.
Being home-schooled, my mother expected a certain level of research, and I was required to have four credible book sources from the library, an encyclopedia reference, and whatever online resources I wanted (which was a challenge, thanks to old-school dial-up).
The person of interest I chose was Harriet Tubman, the “Moses” of the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman was an escaped slave from Maryland who found freedom in Pennsylvania, where she eventually became a member of the Underground Railroad and worked to smuggle slaves in search of freedom into Pennsylvania.
You can only do so much research as a junior higher, so I really didn’t delve as far into Tubman’s history as I could have. But I researched enough about her to write a report (in cursive!) that was impressive enough to earn me an “A” and stick with me all these years.
About-face to November 2019, when we see a newly released film, “Harriet,” hit theatres. A much-overdo drama about the life of Tubman and her accomplishments with the Underground Railroad, this film is a must-see that made my list as soon as I saw the trailer. So, as the men packed to head up north for hunting, my mother and I trekked to Monticello to see “Harriet,” and we were not disappointed.
Starring Cynthia Erivo as Harriet, this film follows Tubman through her struggle to freedom; first fleeing her Maryland plantation, where she leaves behind love and family. Traveling well over one hundred miles to the Pennsylvania border on foot, Harriet arrives in Pennsylvania, where she meets the Underground Railroad and determines to not only obtain freedom for herself, but her loved ones.
A year in freedom drives Harriet to rescue her family, going back to Maryland, where her obsessed, former-master Gideon has not given up the search for her. After heartbreaking news, Harriet ushers her brothers and sisters to Pennsylvania, where they are free. And from there, well – the rest is history.
This movie shines with a strong script, strong casting, and history. Erivo portrays Harriet strongly, in a believably and harrowing way. But, perhaps what is the best aspect of this film is not only its portrayal of Harriet’s determined courage, but also her deep-seeded faith.
Often called the “Moses” of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was, as this film shows, a God-fearing woman. She actually followed the Lord passionately, and sought His will for her life from an early age, determining that her calling in life was to work for the cause of freedom.
This film does not hide Harriet’s spirituality. Many times, she discusses hearing the Lord’s voice and her prayer time, and many times we see her fall to her knees in prayer as the Lord speaks to her heart and shows her the way. Truly, Harriet must have lived up to her nickname to warrant such thorough coverage in a historical retelling.
I can’t help but think how truly similar Harriet was to Moses, and how both periods of time are so closely related. Moses, one of the headliners in not only scripture but the Jewish culture, was born into slavery, adopted into the family of the king, only to be exiled from Egypt where he found God. Then and only then was he commissioned to return to Egypt and set the Lord’s people, Israel, free.
Moses, along the way, faced considerable circumstances. Historical scripture recounts that Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, consistently hardened his heart to Moses’ pleas for freedom. Harsher conditions befell the Israelites, driving them to the point of despondency and hopelessness. However, Moses’ persistence and obedience to the Lord’s call upon his life resulted in the Israelites’ freedom, and eventually their prosperity in the promised land of Canaan.
Much like Moses, Harriet Tubman fled bondage to Pennsylvania, where she was free and discovered the next step of God’s plan for her life, ultimately driving her back to Maryland in hopes of bringing her people to freedom. Harriet would eventually lead an armed assault in the Civil War at the Combahee River, where 750 slaves were liberated. Her missions with the Underground Railroad saved approximately 70 slaves over the course of 17 trips, some of which included a 500-mile stretch into Canada from Maryland. Tubman never lost any “passengers” on the UR.
Tubman is a true testimony unto the favor of God, and the power that obedience brings. Had Harriet not been obedient to God, perhaps she may have never found freedom or had such success in the UR. I believe that her success was a result of her willingness to serve the Lord, and her radical love and obedience.
“Harriet” is just one of those films that parents, teens, and Americans need to see. I wouldn’t suggest taking young kids, as it is rated PG-13. I would, however, suggest you talk to your children about Harriet Tubman, and convey the importance of not only history, but also God-fearing faith.