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Harriet Tubman biopic faces backlash over non-African American star

Cynthia Erivo (Photo credit: Bang Media)

The first trailers for the Harriet Tubman biopic were recently released, and critics are speculating that the film could be a favorite to win an Oscar. However, some on social media have had an issue with the casting of the lead actress in the film.

Tubman, an abolitionist who freed hundreds of slaves, is portrayed by Cynthia Erivo, an accomplished Black actress from Britain. Some believe that Erivo should not be allowed to portray Tubman because she is not a Black American. As a result, several social media users have shared their frustrations with the hashtag, #HarrietDeservesBetter. Some have even called for a boycott.

“I won’t be watching. You should have cast an American descendant of slavery
Not a black Brit,” posted by Twitter user @SamanthaAngeliq.

“We will not allow the hype of a prestige film to compromise our sacred ancestor Harriet’s legacy,” posted by Twitter user @BoPeep.

And Twitter user @Nasescobar316 posted, “Yea, I ain’t watching this either. We are tired of our American roles going to people who don’t have the same lineage of the characters they are portraying. It’s like a dog playing the role of a cat.”

However, some on social media decided to change their minds once they saw the trailer. “Cynthia, I will be honest my family was not thrilled about a Brit being cast as this role,” Twitter user @CeeHope wrote. “But we watched the trailer together and my mom who’s in her ’80s and from Virginia turned to me and said we have to go see this …”

Erivo used her social media platform to thank her supporters. “I wish I could explain what this one comment means to me, tears are in my eyes,” she wrote. “I want so much to make you and the elders like your mom proud. I really do. Thank her for giving me a chance to. Thank you. You don’t know how you’ve lifted me today. Thank you.”

Along with Erivo, the film will also feature actors Janelle Monae and Leslie Odom Jr. in leading roles.

Harriet is co-written and directed by Kasi Lemmons, a Black female director from St. Louis, Missouri, whose past works include Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s Valentine, and Talk to Me.

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