Was Harriet Tubman a Magic Negro?

You are familiar with Magic Negros right?  Think Will Smith in Bagger Vance.

Magic Negroes are the dark-skinned characters in fictional movies who help the light-skinned people figure it out.  They can communicate with the dead (Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.) They can see the future (Gloria Foster in The Matrix.) Sometimes they even portray God (Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty.)

Harriet Tubman was not a Magic Negro.

She was the real life human woman with the faith to move mountains. She could not read and write but she could hear God’s Voice.  She could see Visions. That Voice and those Visions made it possible for her to free at least 70 enslaved people in the 19th Century United States.

Do you know what would have happened to her if she’d been caught?

Nat Turner was hanged and then flayed and then beheaded after leading a slave rebellion in 1831.  His skin and bones were literally handed out as souvenirs after his death. And he even got a trial.  I doubt that Harriet Tubman would have gotten a trial.

The fact that she was never caught is a miracle of Biblical proportions. In honor of All Saints’ Day last week, it would be a good idea to see Kasi Lemmons‘ film Harriet staring Cynthia Erivo. It’s excellent.  (Note: there is not a more elegant actor alive than Leslie Odom, Jr.)

There are people who believe that Jesus is also magic.  The miracles were like magic tricks.  Prayers are magical chants.

But Jesus is not magic and prayers are not incantations.

And the Saints of God from Joan of Arc (1412 to 1431) to Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) to Harriet Tubman (about 1822 to 1913) are not magic – even though they all exuded a deep spiritual power that made them fearless.

Each of us are also called saints of God in my Christian tradition, and it doesn’t mean we are perfect, but it does mean that we can have that spiritual power as well.  It’s just that our fear usually outweighs our faith.

Faithfulness is a power that can move an illiterate enslaved 5’2″woman to risk her life for the sake of justice.  She wasn’t magic.  She was simply filled with the Spirit of God.

This Spirit can be ours too but we’re distracted by projects like “filling the pews” and “making the budget.” (And this is swiftly killing the Church.)

Top image of Harriet Tubman and Cynthia Erivo who plays her in Harriet. The bottom image of the saint’s gravestone in Auburn, New York.

One response to “Was Harriet Tubman a Magic Negro?

  1. Patricia Franks

    Faith over fear…ALWAYS


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