NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) – Abolitionist icon Harriet Tubman passed away just over a hundred years ago. Just over a week ago, a new Hollywood movie hit theaters bringing new life to her story.
Tubman, who is portrayed in the movie “Harriet” by Cynthia Erivo, escaped from slavery, but then made 13 trips back over ten years, leading more than 70 people to freedom.
She became the face of the Underground Railroad and a key figure at the Underground Railroad Heritage Center in Niagara Falls, which stands just feet from where Tubman led freedom seekers across the Niagara River to Canada.
“I tell people to look through this window and I point out the Whirlpool Bridge and that it used to be suspension bridge,” said Kiara Santiago, a visitor experience specialist at the Underground Railroad Heritage Center. “So this exact area is where Harriet Tubman walked through multiple times.”
For the first time ever, a major feature film is shedding light on Tubman’s life and legacy, and that has sparked renewed interest among tourists and local historians alike.
“So we do have a lot of people come in and say did you see the “Harriet”movie? And we’re like we’re going to have to take a field trip to go see this thing, and it was actually really great,” Santiago told News 4.
Santiago points out Tubman’s story is part of the wider story of the Underground Railroad in our region.
“There’s history all over the place,” she said. “Having a blockbuster like this actually pushes more of the information and more of the history, like ‘Hey, go searching for this.’ There’s a lot of history behind many places you go like here in Niagara Falls, or Albany, or even Seneca Falls, which is very crucial.”
Santiago now has an opportunity to introduce a new audience to this slice of history which she says is still so relevant today.
“We want to start having those conversations more and really embrace our heritage and our history because it brought us here today and it’s made us the strong individuals that we are,” she said.
You can learn a lot more about the Underground Railroad in our area for yourself. The Heritage Center is open six days a week.