Harriet Tubman is one of the most famous African American abolitionists in our country’s history. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped to freedom but then made approximately 13 missions to rescue 70 enslaved family members and friends, which became infamously known as the Underground Railroad.
She then became a political activist and would later help abolitionist John Brown recruit men for his raid on Harpers Ferry and also became a spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War.
And a Hollywood executive wanted a famous Caucasian A-list actress to play Harriet Tubman in a biographical movie of her life.
Hollywood really has no idea how tone-deaf and hypocritical they truly are sometimes.
They preach for gun control and then they make movies with guns blazing like it’s their religion. They express their support for the LGBT community but then they never hire them in roles where the characters are specifically of that nature. They preach equality but then the Me Too Movement scandal sweeps the nation. They are adamant on pay disparity amongst men and women but they’ve been caught paying female actresses significantly less.
Do you see a pattern here?
Hollywood also a long history of whitewashing that stems all the way back from the invention of the film industry. For instance, white people portrayed African Americans in 1915’s “The Birth of a Nation.”
In Orson Welles’ 1958 “Touch of Evil,” the producers forced his hand to cast Caucasian actor Charlton Heston to play a Mexican in the protagonist role.
Even recently, Scarlett Johansson was widely criticized for playing an Asian character in “Ghost in the Machine” and then was also forced to drop out of another project where she would play a transgender due to backlash.
But a Harriet Tubman biographical script that floated around Hollywood 25 years ago, sparked a viral article where an executive wanted none other than Julia Roberts to play the titular role – yes, that of African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
“Harriet” the historical drama based on Tubman’s life released earlier this month, stars African American actress Cynthia Erivo. But the film’s screenwriter and producer, Gregory Allen Howard, says when he first started working on the movie in 1994 was when the oddest declaration in Hollywood history was said.
Allen explained, “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.’”
It’s that last statement that makes you say “WOW.”
First of all, “It was so long ago?” Is this really an assertion that not only is Harriet Tubman’s life not learned in history books across the nation or that people won’t remember that she was an African American slave? That’s confusing itself.
But “no one is going to know the difference” is one of the most laughable things anybody could ever say. They’re not going to notice the bright blue-eyed, light blondish-red hair Julia Roberts with her unmistakable lips portraying a black woman?
The thing you have to realize too though is that this is how all these studio executives operate. They’re not creative’s. It’s a formula to them.
Take a great script, director and an A-list star; put them in a blender and BAM you have a hit movie.
That’s not true and it’s been proven false time and time again.
It’s worth noting that Julia Roberts likely had no idea about this project and she most definitely would’ve turned it down anyways.