I had the good fortune of seeing the movie “Harriet” with my wife and friends the Revs. Brenda and Jim West. If you have not seen this movie, you should.

It captures not only the fire and passion of a woman determined to be free of the shackles of slavery, but it makes us feel afresh the enormous hardship and pain African American families endured.

The movie about the American abolitionist and political activist Harriet Tubman is not another “slave” movie with black actors who ultimately end up affirming and honoring the “good white people” who set colored people free.

Instead, “Harriet” points to the noble work of black people who gave all they had to liberate black people from the tyranny of slavery.

White abolitionists are noted in the movie. In one of the most touching scenes, a white farmer takes Harriet to the Pennsylvania state line and asks her, “Shall I take you across, or do you want to walk into your freedom?” Harriet walks.

Scenes in the movie show actual sections of the Underground Railroad. It was almost surreal to see how both beautiful and diabolical the terrain was for those who wanted freedom. The river scenes were spectacular.

I appreciated that the movie also showed that not all black people stood behind the liberation of enslaved folks. There is a vicious black Uncle Tom slave-catcher in the movie who will bring your deepest disgust to the surface.

Again, it is a reminder that not everyone who is your color is always in your corner, both then and now.

The movie is not an attempt to create “white guilt” or “black shame.” It is a movie that honestly reflects American history and presents to us a real American heroine: a black woman named Harriet Tubman. To remain ignorant about our history is the first step toward repeating it.

I am very surprised how many people, black and white, don’t know who Harriet Tubman is or was. As children, we were as acquainted with Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Nat Turner as we were with Betsy Ross, Patrick Henry and George Washington.

It demonstrates how inadequate public education is to equip our children with culturally diverse and informed education.

Again, I encourage you to go see “Harriet.”

The Rev. C.W. Dawson Jr. was the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at MU. He teaches at Columbia College and Moberly Area Community College and writes for the Missourian.


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