The new biopic, "Harriet," about Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist and activist who was born into slavery and risked her life on approximately 13 missions to save close to 100 slaves is currently in movie theaters nationwide. Unfortunately, this movie took over 25 years to be made.
When screenwriter Gregory Allen first wrote the script, he had a meeting in 1994 with the president of a studio sub-label. He recounted the experience for the LA Times, noting that the president told him, “This is a great script. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman." When he was told that Harriet Tubman was actually a black woman, the man responded, “That was so long ago. No one will know that." WHAT IS HAPPENING?
This is, of course, upsetting to learn for a lot of reasons but mostly because Hollywood is still notoriously awful at casting actors who are the actual race of the people of color they're portraying. White-washing unfortunately still happens often (remember when Scarlett Johansson played a Japanese character?). Then, there's the fact that this man had a job in Hollywood and he clearly didn't know how to read a script, or a history book. If Harriet Tubman was white, the risk involved in running an operation that freed black, enslaved people wouldn't be nearly as high. White people did help slaves escape, but the strength and courage it required for a black person (especially a black woman) who was born into slavery and risk becoming a slave again? It's an entirely different story, with an entirely different hero.