Cynthia Erivo Stuns in Riveting Harriet Tubman Biopic Trailer

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The trailer for a new film about the astonishing life of Underground Railroad heroine Harriet Tubman shows actress Cynthia Erivo in the central role, starring alongside Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles and Joe Alwyn.

The film, titled Harriet, tells the story of Tubman from when she was a young girl, born into slavery in Maryland, through her escape from her masters and her emancipation of dozens of fellow slaves through the Underground Railroad and later, her work for the Union Army, which saved hundreds more slaves.

The trailer, which was released last Tuesday, set social media alight with excitement.

An icon of the women’s suffrage movement who also helped newly emancipated slaves find work for years after abolition, Tubman was due to become the first black person to ever be immortalized on a money note before Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced it would be delayed earlier this year.

Her face was to be placed on a $20 bill but in May, Mnuchin announced it had been delayed until President Trump left office.

The idea to put Tubman on the bill was an Obama-administration initiative which Trump has criticized, calling it ‘pure political correctness’.

Mnuchin insisted that the delay was down to technical reasons and had nothing to do with President Trump’s opinion. The new bill will not be rolled out now, with Tubman or without her on it, until 2028.

The trailer shows singer-actress Janelle Monae who plays Marie, a free black woman that serves as Tubman’s mentor, giving her the tools and training she needs to forge her journey before she breaks free herself.

In the film, Monae’s character teaches Tubman how to use a gun before she ventures back to the South to rescue her family and friends

‘God don’t mean people to own people … I will give every last drop of blood in my veins until this monster called slavery is dead,’ Erivo says at one point.

The film also delves into the tragic love story between Harriet and her first husband, John Tubman – who remarried after Harriet escaped.

She left him behind to escape her masters and then, during one of her 13 missions back to rescue other slaves, learned he had moved on.

‘They were a true love story, and the way in which it ended was horrific,’ Erivo explained to Vanity Fair in an interview last year.

‘She’d gone back to get him, and when she got back, she found out that he had married someone else.

As it’s already in talks to become an awards season favourite, it might come as no surprise that award-winning talent already surrounds the film.

Academy Award-nominated musician Terence Blanchard is behind the score, Emmy-winning designer Paul Tazewell was in charge of costuming, and two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll manned cameras for the film.

And come what may when trophies are handed out, Erivo says the role has already left its mark on her own life.

Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland sometime around 1820 and was named Araminta Ross originally.

Her mother’s name was Harriet and her father was Benjamin Ross. She was nicknamed ‘Minty’ and grew up as a slave. Her mother was a cook and her father was a timber worker.

As a young child, she was rented out as a nursemaid and as punishment, was whipped whenever the baby she was caring for cried.

Aged 12, she stepped in the way of a weight being thrown at a fugitive slave and it struck her on the head, injuring her severely and leaving her with headaches and narcolepsy which persisted throughout her life.

She married John Tubman in 1844, aged around 24.

Five years later, in 1849, she and two of her eight siblings, Ben and Henry, planned their escape.

Ben and Henry changed their minds and went back to the plantation in fear for their lives but Harriet continued on.

She made it 90 miles north to Philadelphia, walking the entire way. When asked what she would like her new, free name to be, she chose Harriet in honour of her mother.

Despite finding work as a housekeeper but returned to the South to free her relatives and then dozens more slaves.

In total, she is thought to have helped 70 people escape their masters through the Underground Railroad, including her own elderly parents.

She famously said: ‘I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say — I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.’

When the Civil War erupted, she worked as a cook for the Union Army then was used as a spy, the army’s head of espionage.

It came to a head in 1863 at the Raid on Combahee Ferry in South Carolina when she led soldiers in an affront on slave owners and Confederate soldiers to rescue some 700 slaves from plantations.

She went on to fight for the woman’s suffrage and for years after abolition, helped former slaves settle into their new lives by finding them jobs and places to live.

Tubman lived out her years in Auburn, New York, where she’d bought a plot of land.

After the death of her first husband, she remarried and with her second husband, she adopted a daughter, Gertie.

In 1896, she opened the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged on the land next to hers in Auburn. She went to live there in 1911 and died two years later in 1913.

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