As a guide, warrior and no-nonsense champion, Aisha Hinds’ Harriet Tubman has been a visceral force during this season of Underground. Teaching Rosalee how to move cargo undetected and working with Georgia and Elizabeth’s abolitionist sewing circle, “the most notorious runaway” has integrated herself among all aspects of the cause and in “Minty,” we finally get the full view of her life and backstory. In an unprecedented move on television, Underground chose to put the spotlight on one character to drive the entire episode, and Hinds’ performance was exhilarating and masterful to watch.
In a 19th century “TED Talk” of sorts, the audience meets the woman behind the legend as she paints an intricate tapestry of her childhood and how she became General Tubman. Born Araminta Ross around 1820, Tubman discusses the sisters that were sold away from her, and the horrendous abuse that she suffered as a child after bring hired out by her master to different estates. Even as a young girl, though she was often sickly, Harriet had a rebellious streak. She was mischievous and would use small acts of defiance to assert herself despite the conditions of her bondage. For Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beacher Stowe’s 1852 novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin didn’t even scratch the surface of the horrors of slavery.
For Harriet, it was not just about abolitionists knowing her story; it was about them contemplating and fully understanding the violence of the institution of slavery and bondage itself. Despite her spunk and acts of resistance, Tubman came to realize that there could be no triumphs under slavery. Bolstered by rumors of her own sale to another plantation, Harriet decided to run for her freedom. However, as we learn in “Minty,” her actual journey to freedom did not begin the very first time she tried to run with her brothers. Though she only got a mile away from her plantation that first time, it sparked an inferno in Harriet that could not be doused. After befriending a white abolitionist, Harriet embarked on the journey that would lead to her tenuous freedom.
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