187: Harriet with Dr. Kate Clifford Larson

Today we’ll hear from Dr. Larson, the historical consultant on the 2019 movie Harriet about the life of Harriet Tubman.

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Transcript

Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Dan LeFebvre  01:31

The movie opens in Bucktown, Maryland in the year 1849. We’re introduced to Harriet in her mid 20s, although she’s called Minty by her husband, John Tubman. We find out later that short for Araminta Ross Tubman. Can you give a little more historical context around Minty’s life up until the point that we see her in the movie?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  02:00

There’s so much to her life before we meet her in 1849. In the film, she’s 27 years old. She’s been married, obviously. She is the fifth of nine children of Ben and Rit Ross. Parents were enslaved by different masters. But she was enslaved along with her mother and her siblings by a man named Edward Brodess and his family. And when we see her in the film, she and her husband, her parents, and her siblings are standing in the yard in front of the porch of the movie set, Edward Brodess home. So you’re meeting him and his family at that time as well. But she’s been, you know, working hard and living a very difficult life as an enslaved child and woman up until that point,

 

Dan LeFebvre  02:54

You mentioned the house there, and one of the first things that we see in the movie is there’s a man named Reverend Green who’s giving a little sermon on the steps of the house. And I wanted to ask about this because he uses the words from from the Bible verse in Colossians. I believe it says something like, slaves, honor your earthly masters in everything. Is it true that they actually use the Bible as a means of justifying slavery?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  03:19

Yes, they did. Particularly the Southern Methodist and Southern Baptists really began to push that harder and harder in the late 18th century and into the 19th century because of pressure of abolition. And the need to remind these intensely spiritual and faithful African American people that the Bible is telling them that they must obey their masters. And for some it was, you know, it was hard pill to swallow. And then of course, they would add that your reward will be in heaven.

 

Dan LeFebvre  03:52

Wow. In the movie, John Tubman hires a lawyer to research the last will of Atthow Pattison. According to that will, Minty’s mother, Rit, was supposed to be freed at the age of 45. It was given to Mr. Brodess as a child and at the time of the movie in 1849. She’s 57, so Minty points out, at least in the movie, she points out that her mom was 46 when her sisters were sold, which was illegal according to the will, they were all supposed to be free when her mom turned 45. Of course, in the movie, Mr. Brodess doesn’t care he tears up the letter from the lawyer. And that’s pretty much that. Was that true?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  04:31

So it’s partly true. But it was Harriet herself who hired the lawyer for $5. To investigate and research this will have an ancestor of Edward Brodess. And indeed, that ancestor wrote his his great grandfather, Atthow Pattison had put in his will, that Rit should be set free at the age of 45. The movie diverges from this however, it did not mean that all her children would be free when she turned 45. It meant that they were to be free. When they turn 45, as well, but Rit had two children after she turned 45. And they should have been born free, but they were enslaved instead.

 

Dan LeFebvre  05:09

And then basically just tearing up the letter, would it have just stopped there? Or would they have continued to pursue that?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  05:17

So it sort of stopped there. enslaved people, even if they hired a lawyer had, you know slim chance of things going in their favor, however, which they did not cover in the film, is that Edward Bridess who died quite quickly after that left his estate in disarray, and the other heirs of Atthow Pattison filed suit to claim the rights to it is a complicated story, but it did end up going through the court system and tying up Edwards estate for several years.

 

Dan LeFebvre  05:52

In the movie, once Gideon puts minty up for sale, she decides to run away, even though she wants her husband john to go with her, or I’m sorry, he wants to go with her. She, she knows that he’s a free man. And if he helps her, then he’ll lose that freedom. So we see you’re seeing a farewell song to her mom from the distance and then she evades john as she makes her escape. From there she goes to her father Ben, who is free, and he tells her to go to Reverend Greene’s church and ask him to pray for her journey. She’s kind of conflicted because you mentioned earlier he was the one that was preaching obedience to slave owners. But she does as she’s told and Reverend green then gives her directions on how to escape using the Delaware River to a man a blacksmith named Thomas Garrett. How well did the movie do showing mentees escape?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  06:42

Well, I think they did a great job imagining what it was like because we have no idea what happened. We know that actually the first person she went to she escaped from a plantation in Caroline County. And both of her parents were on that plantation so they really weren’t living apart at the time. And there was a Quaker woman that lived nearby that minty or Harriet Tubman approached. And that woman told her to wait till her husband came home and he would take her to the next stop on the Underground Railroad. We don’t know the path that they took. We know she eventually ended up in Philadelphia. And later she became very, very close to Thomas Garrett. The Quaker businessman, he was not a blacksmith. He was a businessman. He had an a business selling iron in Wilmington, Delaware. So one of the scenes during her escape is Tubman is chased by Gideon and his gang. And they chase her to a bridge over the choptank River. And the choptank River is real. It is there on the eastern shore of Maryland. And he approaches her and she gets up on the bridge and then jumps. That did not happen. And that wasn’t the choptank River, they had to film in Virginia. So it’s not the same landscape. The choptank River is a very flat, calm river, and there weren’t any bridges to speak of that she could have jumped off and and survived without getting stuck in the mud. If she had done that. And Gideon, or john or whatever brought his son didn’t chase her. That was all manufacturers.

 

Dan LeFebvre  08:19

Okay, okay. Yeah. Well, that was going to lead into my next question, because we do see the the path. There’s a guy who’s driving a cart filled with hay and she sneaks in there and kind of makes her way but then she makes her way to Thomas Garrett’s place. And then he helps her to the Pennsylvania border, then that leads to someone named William still in the Pennsylvania anti slavery society. So would we not really have known who helped her along the way?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  08:45

We don’t know for sure. But I think that the filmmakers did a great way of bringing in these characters very quickly into the movie, they only had two hours to tell this huge story. So the the man with the wagon who was dressed sort of like a Quaker, he’s very quiet. He doesn’t say anything. He knows she’s there. She hides. And then he, you know, she jumps out at the right time. And so that’s, that works for me. So that’s sort of true. But when she met Thomas Garret, we have no idea and we don’t know who brought her to the the Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State line. And when she could step over and be free, we don’t know that, but I liked the way they did it. I thought it was great.

 

Dan LeFebvre  09:28

Okay, and yeah, a lot of movies are gonna have to fill in some details. If we don’t know then. Yeah, yeah. Now we go back to the movies timeline. It is William still from the Pennsylvania anti slavery society who tells Mindy that most ex slaves like to pick a new name to mark their freedom. And so this is where we find out that her mom rets her real name is Harriet, and so she wants her mom’s name and her husband’s name Harriet Tubman. Is that how she got the name that we know her by now.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  09:55

She gave testimony for a pension Civil War. pension in the 1890s. And during that testimony, she said that she changed her name to Harriet Tubman when she got married to john Tubman in 1844.

 

Dan LeFebvre  10:11

Okay, so the concept of the slaves wanting to pick a new name, is that something that would not have happened then? Or was it just not that that was how she got her name?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  10:20

Oh, no, no, it happened frequently. And William still kept a journal. And in that journal, he recorded the enslaved name, and then the free name. Not everybody changed their name, but but some of them going through that office, did her brothers all change their names when they made their way through William stills office.

 

Dan LeFebvre  10:39

Okay. And the movie doesn’t really explain a lot about William stills, the anti slavery society that it’s going on there. Can you give a little more historical context around we I’m still in the anti slavery society that he was a part of there?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  10:53

Sure. So Pennsylvania had an anti slavery society that had been operating for decades and decades. And they had what they called a a vigilance committee in Philadelphia that helped freedom seekers who came to the city, and the anti slavery society, and the vigilance committee and their supporters raised money to help support these freedom seekers with transportation, food, clothing, medicine, shelter, etc, and help them get further north, especially after 1850 when The Fugitive Slave Act was passed, it made it very dangerous for freedom seekers to linger in free cities in the north. So he was he became a secretary in that office, the vigilance committee office in Philadelphia in the late 1840s. And he took on a really monumental task. And a he was a larger than life figure in a sense that he helped hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people get make their way through Philadelphia, and he hid them and protected them through his network of supporters. He’s huge in the store in the annals of the Underground Railroad.

 

Dan LeFebvre  12:02

Was his his role, kind of a unique thing? Or was there more more than just Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, in particular, whether more societies like that out there,

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  12:14

there were in most northern states, there were anti slavery societies, and some of the big cities. And even some of the smaller cities had vigilance committees that operated the same way. Some of them were more radical, and very radical, like the one in Boston was very radical. And they were groups in the Midwest, some of them were very radical, too. They would harass slave catchers. I mean, they went out of their way to complicate things. Philadelphia was the had the largest free black population in the country at the time. So there was a vibrant community there that that enabled the underground railroad network to work very efficiently and very well. And Williams still was a figurehead in that movement.

 

Dan LeFebvre  12:58

Okay, so period ending up there was more just geographically more convenient to to go there. Not necessarily that that was the the place to go.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  13:08

Well, it was geographically perfect, but it was the place to go for most freedom seekers coming out of that Chesapeake area to get to, you know, Southern Pennsylvania and into Philadelphia, which gave you many, many options you could hide out in the black population, and you could find support to move further north.

 

Dan LeFebvre  13:28

Okay, now, even though you’re mentioning for the North, and we’ll get to that here in a minute. But in the movie, after Harriet makes it to Philadelphia, she ends up wanting to go back, she feels that something’s wrong. You know, she talks I think she gets word from one of the men going up and down the Delaware River that her husband and her family knows that she’s safe, but she wants to go back and try to get her husband and her family. So she gets help from someone named Marie Buchanan and get some fake papers goes back down south. She partially gets away with it because as Maria explains, in the movie, runaways usually don’t go back south. So how well did the movie do showing the reasons why Harriet wanted to go back for her family.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  14:18

Well, I feel they nailed it. A Casey lemons was a dream to work with. She really wanted to capture the real Harriet Tubman and the real Harriet Tubman, as wonderful as she was she didn’t just go down south and rescue anybody. She was like, every other woman or man whose family was left behind, she loved her family. And I think they show that in the film, The intense love that her parents and her siblings they all had for each other. And so Casey really made that apparent and Tubman herself said when she got to Philadelphia, that freedom didn’t feel complete because Every one she loved was still in Maryland. And she felt that if she was going to be free, they deserve to be free too. And she was going to do something about it, which is exactly what she did do. But she Casey lemons really got that moment. This was Tubman the woman. And of course we can all we can relate to that if, you know we had the opportunity to just save our family, we’re gonna do that save strangers, maybe not. But family members and friends, people you love.

 

Dan LeFebvre  15:27

That was it did any other slaves that escaped, tried to do the same sort of thing to go back and save their families as well.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  15:35

There are records of people going back to rescue their families. William still notes several of them in his journal. It didn’t happen often. But it did happen. But no one is recorded as returning as many times as Harriet Tubman did.

 

Dan LeFebvre  15:54

In the movie, one of the times we see her go back, she finds out that john took another wife named Caroline, and they’re expecting a child together. I can’t imagine what it must have been, like going through her mind to go back trying to rescue her husband, only to find that he’s taken another wife. Did that actually happen? And how do we know how it affected Harriet?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  16:18

that did happen. She actually brought him a suit of clothes. She said this, hoping that it would you know, entice him to move to Philadelphia with her. But he had moved on. He had fallen in love with a free black woman by the name of Caroline. And she was pregnant at the time. We know from documentation in Maryland that that is true. We know that that Harriet was devastated and deeply wounded by this she felt betrayed and abandoned. And but she recovered and decided she would just keep doing what she wants to do and rescue other people in the script. Casey originally had it that Tubman discovers that Caroline is pregnant, and she vomits on the ground. And I thought that was so powerful. But I think they decided that that was just too much to put in the film. But, you know, Casey lemans understood that that betrayal would just make you know, Harriet sick and I think Cynthia Revo did a great job. You know, her breaking down, but also pulling yourself together. I think that was a great scene. And I do believe that john Tubman deeply loved Harriet, but you know, he was a free man, he risked everything. And if he had gone with her, he could have been captured and enslaved. And that would have been awful.

 

Dan LeFebvre  17:43

What sort of timeline was that there that the movie doesn’t really show a lot of different dates to know that when she was freed, and and then she came coming back, and how much time there for john to find somebody else.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  17:55

So she escaped in the fall of 1849. And she returned, I think, in the fall of 1851. And that’s when she discovered the betrayal.

 

Dan LeFebvre  18:06

Going back to the movie, and she is heartbroken after the news from john, but she kind of seems to question her purpose in life for a while there, and then her dad finds her. It would find it interesting that in the movie, he’s still refusing to actually look at her which had to have been tough as well. But he wants to honestly say that he hasn’t seen her if somebody asks, but then he tells Harriet that her brothers were about to be sold by Eliza Broadus. And another movie, we see that Eliza and Gideon are struggling for money after Edward died. You had mentioned that a little bit earlier. But it’s not just her brothers, there’s some other people, including a woman named Phoebe who has a newborn, she named her newborn after minty after she found out that she had escaped. And so we find that Harry, it’s not just gonna rescue her, her brothers, I think there’s a total of five slaves. If you include the newborn, that would be six people total. To go back through freedom is that pretty accurate way of that first bringing people to freedom.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  19:10

So that scene is sort of a conflation of different rescues. And it was not the first one. She rescued her brothers at Christmas 1854. And so that was after several trips that she had made back and forth rescuing other people. And the baby story. It’s sort of a conflation of a brother who left a wife and children behind she had just given birth to a baby. That day Christmas Eve and they named the baby Harriet not minty but Harriet, and but he had to leave his family behind which was really heartbreaking. And then later in her career of being an underground railroad agent, like one of the last rescue missions she had, she rescued a family with two little children and In an infant, so it’s sort of conflating those stories and then the crossing the river scene. That was true. But it was a different rescue mission with for men. It was not with this group of people. But so that’s why I mean, it was just a conflation of different rescues.

 

Dan LeFebvre  20:18

Okay, so but if she rescued her brothers after she had rescued some other people, were those other people still family members, or like you’re saying earlier, not just rescuing any random people who was the people that she had rescued first.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  20:32

The first rescue mission was her niece because I Anjali boli and her two little children James, and Aaron mentor mentee who was named after Harriet as Mindy. So that was the first rescue mission in 1850. She rescued a brother Moses in 1851, but that we don’t know what happened to Moses. And then there were a couple other groups of people that she rescued, were not clear on who they were. But obviously, they were people that she knew and loved. And so it just went on that way. There were just other groups of people, but they’re mostly people she knew. And

 

Dan LeFebvre  21:09

in love. You mentioned the name Moses, and I wanted to ask you about that because in the movie, we do see Harriet singing a song about Moses, you know, let my people go and that is how she encourages the slaves to follow her away from the plantation to freedom. We see some posters being hung on trees for a reward for the slave stealer known as Moses. Was it true that Harriet was known as Moses to the slave owners trying to track her down? No.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  21:37

And they didn’t post up notices for Ward to capture Moses or for Harriet Tubman. They had no idea who she was. In fact, it’s so ridiculous. I mean, that I you know, I appreciate how they were trying to just get so much into that film and and tell a good story. But the truth is the slaveholders on the eastern shore by 1857 58 now have been have been doing this for eight years. They were starting to think that it was a white man dressed in black face as a black woman that was luring people away. I mean, how twisted do they have to be to not really realize that it was a, it was a black woman that was actually leading people away? No, it had to be a white abolitionists man dressed in blackface. Wow, wow. That’s, that’s crazy. I know, I know. But they couldn’t do that in the film. That’s really a complicated thing to kind of relay. And there was no large reward for her capture. Eliza brodus posted a reward for mentees capture along with her two brothers who escaped first and September of 1849. And they stayed away for about three weeks because they were confused about which way to go and who to trust. So they came back but allies abroad is posted reward to capture them $100 each and that was it.

 

Dan LeFebvre  23:06

There’s another group of people that we see in particular, it’s Gideon hires two men named Walter and bigger long to be slave catchers. And this is the first concept that we see of the slave catchers in the movie. We do see, I think, oh, Walter sees the group that Harriet is trying to get to freedom across across the river. And then he lies to get in that he lost track of them. So how well did the movie do showing the attempts of these two black men? Being slave catchers trying to apparently you know, earn money catching, catching the slaves? But then there seems to be some confliction with Walter lying about it and letting them escape. How well did the movie do showing these slave catchers trying to track down Harriet and the group that she was helping escape?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  23:56

So we don’t the most of the slave catchers were white, I’ll just say that. But there were black slave catchers. And I know the movie got a lot of flack when this came out. And they represented bigger long, especially because he was vicious. And Walter, who had this kind of moment where he realized he needed to be on the right side of things. But they did exist, and they were very real. And so I have no problem with the way they portrayed it. I think it was very honest and had integrity. And in fact, there’s a historian Rick Bell, who has come out with a book about it’s called stolen. And it’s about the business of dealing, enslaved people in stealing free black people in cities in the north or in the upper south, and selling them into slavery or taking them into the deep south and reselling them, and they were African American men and women that were involved in that trade. So it’s a fact and it’s true. And the film, I think, was honest about it.

 

Dan LeFebvre  24:56

I wanted to ask about the Underground Railroad itself because in the movie Once Harriet makes it back to Philadelphia with the slave, she goes away still. And then he in turn, takes Harriet to a meeting of what he calls the committee. And these are the organizers and the officers in the Underground Railroad. It’s the first time that we we see them in the movie. William introduces Harriet to everyone else as a conductor on the railroad. According to the movie, a conductor is someone who accompanies slaves to safe houses or stations. These are stations that are run by station masters. And he says the bravest of conductors steal slaves directly from plantation right under the overseers nose. And this is exactly what we see Harriet doing in the movie. Can you give a little more historical context around the Underground Railroad at this point in history when Harriet was first introduced to it,

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  25:45

so by the time Harriet Tubman becomes involved in the Underground Railroad, it is a very well organized network of people in the south. And in the north. It had been evolving for centuries, of course, people have been running away since enslaved people were brought here to America. But by you know, the 19th century it was very well organized. And on the East Coast, it had a it was a tremendously well organized network, it was well funded, and it helped liberate and secure the freedom, permanent freedom for many, many, many people. And the scene in the film is a little, you know, it seems a little ridiculous, you know, they got a chalkboard and they’re keeping track. I mean, that was pretty funny. But if there was a vigilance committee, and they were very serious about their business, and they were determined to make sure that people were going to be free, and they use their own financial resources, they found ways to raise money and offer support. And they did meet. And so you know, I can’t quibble with the way it was presented. I think it was just it was, it was Hollywood. But it was the truth, it was the truth.

 

Dan LeFebvre  26:57

You mentioned this earlier, and in the movie, we do see something called The Fugitive Slave Act get passed. And the way the movie portrays This is basically up until this point, Harriet has been taking people to Philadelphia to Pennsylvania, but now once this is passed, his Slave Hunters can now pursue slaves in any state in the Union, and kind of obliges law enforcement to turn the slaves over. So now, according to the movie, Pennsylvania is not far enough North now they need to go even further into Canada. Can you give a little more historical context around The Fugitive Slave Act and how it affected Harriet’s work.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  27:36

So The Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850. And it was part of a big compromise in Congress when California was admitted into the Union as a free state. So it, it created it, quote, unquote, imbalance in Congress. So there were more free states represented than in slave states. So southerners wanted some compensation. And The Fugitive Slave Act was part of that compensation. And it gave empowered them to go anywhere in the north, and reclaim their enslaved people and bring them back without having to fight for it in court. They just could take the people back. And this is shorthand, and there was money involved payments to judges to adjudicate that quickly and send them back south. It was a terrible, terrible law, and also because they didn’t have photographs back then, really, they the slave catchers could just capture any free person and claim they were in a former slave and take them back. And that did happen. So it was a it was a very real, very dangerous thing that was happening then in the film. And the timeline is a little off. I mean, it happened in 1850, just months after Tubman fled for the first time herself. It wasn’t years later. And of course, it didn’t happen the same time that john Brown was there in Philadelphia, you know, giving his fiery speeches they anyway, it they just had to conflate everything. For a good story. It was all true, just kind of off a little.

 

Dan LeFebvre  29:09

So then would most escaping slaves and then try to actually go to Canada instead of staying in Pennsylvania, then?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  29:18

Yes, 1000s of them fled to Canada, and even people who were living in northern more northern cities and towns like in Boston, etc. They fled to Canada too, because the slave catchers headed right for cities like Boston, Albany, New York, Syracuse, New York. And so these vigilance committees, had to create networks to warn freedom seekers that there was a slave Catcher in town. And in Boston, they created these committees of men that would practice attacking slave catchers. They’d hear that one was in town, they’d go and they they would attack them. And they did that like in Niagara Falls and places like that, so that they would chase these like out of town.

 

Dan LeFebvre  30:01

Back in the movie in its in 1858 when Harriet finds out that a fugitive that her dad harbor got caught and talked. So now she’s going back south to get her mom and dad. She’s leading a group of slaves being followed by Gideon and Eliza, along with some other slave owners who are upset at Harriet or as they call her Moses. But here we see, Harriet put her own life on the line yet again, as she tells Walter to take the slaves north to freedom, and she stays behind to deal with Gideon and bigger long. The way the movie shows this happening is that Gideon actually kills bigger long when he tries to shoot Harriet’s Gideon was insistent that they take her alive. Then Harry gets the jump on Gideon and rather than killing him, though, she proved herself a better person by saying that she was never anyone’s property. Gideon never owned her. God did not intend for people to own other people, then steals his horse and ride off. How did the movie do showing these events in 1858?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  31:03

Well, first of all, she rescued her parents in 1857. And her father was in trouble. He was going to be arrested as an underground railroad agent, which he was he was an underground railroad agent. So she rescued her parents, the whole thing with Gideon, and bigger long, that didn’t happen. We have no evidence of that. And first of all, Gideon is a made up name the Broadus is didn’t have a son named Gideon, their oldest son. They had you know, john and James, but there were too many John’s and James in the movie, so they couldn’t name another person, john. So Gideon. So all these things, you learn about how they have to deal with historical characters, because you can’t confuse an audience with too many people with the same name. And so I think the point of it was, I like the way to me the movie is about Harriet Tubman. And the other stuff just sort of was a way a vehicle to show her as a person and her character. And she really, by the time she’s rescuing her parents, she is militant, she is determined she is a soldier for freedom, for sure. So I think that scene really sets up what is going to come and that’s the Civil War. But she you know, I like the way they did that, even though it was totally made up completely made up.

 

Dan LeFebvre  32:28

I’m glad you clarified that about about Gideon, too. And you’re right, they had a lot of John’s, then that would have been even more confusing. But at the very end of the movie, we see some text on the screen that says two years into the Civil War and Harriet Tubman had already become the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad she leading over 70 slaves to freedom. The text continues to tell us that Harriet became a spy for the Union Army. She led 150 black soldiers in the combahee River raid that freed over 750 slaves and she remains one of the few women in US history to lead an armed expedition. Finally, it tells us that she later remarried and dedicated her life to helping freed slaves, the elderly and women’s suffrage. She died surrounded by loved ones on March 10 1913, at approximately 91 years of age, and put in movie her last words where I go to prepare a place for you. Is that all true?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  33:29

It’s all true. It’s all true. In fact, the US Army Military Intelligence Corps Hall of Fame has just inducted Tubman into their Hall of Fame as a spy. And the ceremony will be in June at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. They recognize that her military service which the army would not recognize back when she was alive, they’re recognizing now her great leadership and her skill as a spy and a scout.

 

Dan LeFebvre  34:04

Were there others that were spies that are escaped slaves that the army used as spies during the war?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  34:11

Yes, there were, as a matter of fact, there were eight male scouts that worked with Tubman down in the Hilton Head district. And many of them were freedom seekers themselves that had fled from nearby plantations. And they reported intelligence to her or she went out in the field with them and and investigated. And then she brought the intelligence back to the union officers who admired her greatly. They were so respectful and elevated her importance at that time. And so, yeah,

 

Dan LeFebvre  34:44

it’s all true. One of the characters in the movie I wanted to ask you about she has a major impact, at least according to movie on on Harriet’s life and that is Marie Buchanan. Unfortunately, in the movie, she gets killed by Gideon and bigger long was she based on a real person

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  35:00

She is based on a real person in this script that was a boarding house owner a woman. And but I knew that the real woman’s name was Sarah Buchanan. And so they they wanted the name Marie or Casey one of the name Marie or the original script had Marie so they call her Marie Buchanan. Sara was not murdered. But she did run a boarding house and she had her husband and family members were seamen and traders. So she was in she was kind of connected into this black maritime network. As a boarding house owner, she had grown to shelter freedom seekers like Harriet Tubman.

 

Dan LeFebvre  35:44

Now being involved in the process of making the movie. Do you have a favorite story from that?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  35:50

It was the most amazing experience working with Casey lemons in particular. I think the My favorite part of the whole thing, there wasn’t one particular experience. I think it was just Casey got Tubman. She got her. She got the love of Thompson’s family. And they show that on screen. I love the hugs that they all give each other they were just so authentic. And Cynthia Rivas physicality, she was so strong and powerful. That was Tubman. And Cynthia is five feet tall, just like Tubman. So, you know, I just, there were so many parts of this that were so authentic for me. And I think Casey Bowman’s really brought it to that film. She, the script needed a lot of work when she got it. And I think she nailed it.

 

Dan LeFebvre  36:47

Was there anything from history that didn’t make it into the movie that you wish had been in there? Oh, my gosh, they could make we need a series. Are you kidding? What are you talking about all that being true, like that text at the end? And we were like, Okay, this is going to be the sequel. Like they need to tell all that too.

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  37:06

And all the before, you know, there’s so much about her life that, you know, I think still needs to be treated on film, and hopefully it will be in the future. I don’t know if if your listeners or if you saw the laissent late latest report that they uncovered what they believe to be Ben Ross’s cabin site in Dorchester county that he lived in probably in the late 1820s to about 1846. So it that is thrilling and exciting. Because once they finished that work, we’ll be able to start interpretation of Thompson’s life at that time. And the community that lived there that helped raise her and protect her and educate her and, and helped her become the woman that she ultimately became.

 

Dan LeFebvre  37:54

Thank you so much for coming on to chat about Harriet. I know I’ve mentioned you worked as a historical consultant on the film. But you’ve also got a great book that I’m sure the filmmakers referring to a lot. It’s called bound for the promised land Harriet Tubman, portrait of an American hero. So for someone listening to this, who wants to learn more about the true story, can you share a bit about your book and where they can learn more about your work?

 

Dr. Kate Clifford Larson  38:17

So you can find the book on Amazon under my name Kate Clifford Larson or, you know there’s a there are two national parks in Thompson’s honor now one in Auburn, New York where she spent the last 50 years of her life in her own home. And then there’s a national park in Dorchester County, as well as a state park visitor center that has tremendous exhibits about Harriet Tubman, and there’s a byway that 125 mile byway that goes through Dorchester and Caroline County, and also into Delaware into Philadelphia that you can follow basically the routes and Harriet Tubman and learn about her life as a child, a young adult and as a liberator.

 

Dan LeFebvre  39:02

Thank you again so much for your time, Kate!

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