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Should a black British actor play Harriet Tubman?

A divisive movie for divisive times

July 25, 2019

10:57 AM

25 July 2019

10:57 AM

The Twitter pitchforks are out once more – this time for Cynthia Erivo, an actor and singer born in London to Nigerian parents.

The 32-year-old is set to play the titular role in Harriet, a movie based on the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman who helped countless African American slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. The film, set for a November release this year, boasts a cast including Janelle Monae and Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr.

Erivo is a Tony-winning performer who received great reviews for her turn as a soul singer in Bad Times at the El Royale. Yet she finds herself in the middle of a war for Tubman’s legacy.

Most of the complaints center on Erivo’s British heritage, which protesters claim should disqualify the actor.

‘I won’t be watching… You should have casted an American Descendant of Slavery… Not a black Brit!’ posted one Twitter critic, receiving nearly 250 likes.

‘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,’ another user opined.

However, some offense archaeologists are mad at Erivo due to a 2013 tweet joking about ‘ghetto american accent[s],’ with others going as far as to allege that Erivo is the descendant of black slavers.

‘It has not been established which Igbo subtribe Erivo is from and that needs to be made clear,’ a Twitterer proclaimed on Tuesday. ‘Is Erivo Igbo “Dialia”, and thus from a slave trading lineage? We would like answers.’

The post received over 500 likes.

‘Ms Tubman’s legacy is lost in this woman’s portrayal of her,’ declared another, labeling Erivo a ‘fraud’, while a frequent online critic of the movie claimed it ’wasn’t made for American Blacks. It was made for white people. They love these types of movies.’

The protests against Erivo even gained support from celebrity pick-up-artist Tariq Nasheed, who remarked, ’Cynthia EriVo playing Harriet Tubman is a no for me dog.’

Many black Americans and Brits expressed support for Erivo and condemned the protests as a loss for the black community.

‘Sometimes we (black people) are really our own worst enemy. Is this really something to have an issue with? She’s another black woman, support her instead of finding ways to create unnecessary divisions,” one woman posted in response to the criticism. ‘Couldn’t care less where the actor is from,’ another added. ‘She looks the part and that is good enough for me.’

The movie also earned the blessing of Daily Wire editor-in-chief and conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, who described the trailer as ‘AMAZING.’

Is it really so much to ask that an American actor be cast as an American icon? Perhaps Scarlett Johansson is available…


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