Why Harriet Tubman Still Matters

The filmmakers tell us what makes the 19th century freedom fighter now more important than ever

In Kasi LemmonsHarrietCynthia Erivo stars as the legendary 19th century abolitionist who went on to become an icon of fortitude, faith, and fearlessness in the face of adversity. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped, before returning to free many more enslaved people as one of the the most daring conductors of the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she went behind enemy lines as a Union spy and even commanded an armed regiment to fight in the conflict. Small in stature, Tubman had a spirit large enough not only to change history in her time but lead the way for generations to come. For those who worked on Harriet, bringing her story to the screen was certainly a labor of love. But also it reaffirmed for them how her values and valor resonates now more than ever. Below is just a sampling of how the people who made Harriet feel about the heroine of their film.

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The official trailer for Harriet

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet Tubman”

She’s the ultimate example of what it is to persevere and fight and to never give in. If you believe in something, if you believe something is right, to keep fighting for it, keep striving for it with abandon. Harriet to me means hope, determination, strength, and humility.

Kasi Lemmons, director

To me, it’s inspiration and strength and fortitude and force of will. I’m reminded about what can be accomplished through sheer force of will.

Gregory Allen Howard, screenwriter

She matters to me because she went back. She didn't have to, but she did. If she had been captured, they would have tortured and killed her. The risk was enormous, but she did it anyway. She is black America's greatest icon. She shook the foundation of slavery to its core.

Debra Martin Chase, producer

She represents to me the idea, and helps us to remember, that each of us can make a difference. She went back, saved her family, saved her people, changed the course of our nation. And in these really difficult times when we’re all feeling a little hopeless and helpless, hopefully this movie will inspire people to say, "I can make a difference." This is not a movie about slavery. It’s a movie about freedom and empowerment.

Cynthia Erivo and Joe Alwyn with Kasi Lemmons on the set of Harriet

Joe Alwyn, “Gideon Brodess”

Harriet Tubman means to me, a woman of unimaginable strength, bravery, and courage, who overcame insurmountable obstacles and hurdles in the face of incredible danger, racism, prejudice, and violence. The kind of strongest woman you could ever imagine.

Terence Blanchard, composer

She matters because she's a perfect embodiment of whatever is possible can be. Stop looking to others. She followed her heart. She followed her own conscience. And she didn't sit around waiting for someone to give her what she knew she already owned.

Janelle Monáe, “Marie Buchanon”

Harriet means freedom. Harriet means fearlessness. Harriet means heroic, iconic, and—she is a giant. She is an American hero.

Daniela Taplin Lundberg, producer

It’s been a really hard road getting here, but nothing is as hard as what Harriet did. So any time I’m feeling down, I think, "I can get through this," because Harriet went through so much more and did so much more. She’s really become my inspiration, my icon. When we were developing this, there were a myriad of ways to tell this story, and we felt this should be a tale of inspiration. People should come out of this and feel "I need to do something, too; I can affect change."

Vanessa Bell Calloway, “Rit Ross”

To me, Harriet means kickass, badass, magnificent black woman, black girl power at her best in in 1800s.

Henry Hunter Hall, “Walter”

She definitely was with us while filming. She means the world to me. She’s family.

Cynthia Erivo and Vondie Curtis-Hall in Harriet

Vondie Curtis-Hall, “Reverend Green”

Harriet means to me hope, tenacity, and never giving up.

Angie Wells, department head, makeup

Harriet to me means strong woman, freedom, determination, strength, and just never giving up. Persistence and perseverance through the hardest of things. We think we have it hard today [but it’s] nothing in comparison to what she had.

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