Tracing the remarkable life's path of Harriet Tubman

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This article, Tracing the remarkable life's path of Harriet Tubman, originally appeared on CBSNews.com

What did you learn about Harriet Tubman in school? That she ran away from slavery, then risked her own freedom to free others? One sentence, two, if that?

A new film, "Harriet," starring Cynthia Erivo, is meant to flesh out the Wikipedia entry of Tubman's life story.

"Playing her was tough and exhilarating," Erivo told correspondent Martha Teichner. "I saw her as a young woman who had a force of will that was almost unbreakable. And she was a superhero because of that."

In her 70s she opened an old age home for formerly enslaved people, and an infirmary providing free healthcare to anyone, black or white.

"She was a lightning rod for change," said Karen Vivian Hill, who heads the Harriet Tubman Home. "She was the Serena Williams of her time, okay? Bold, bad, black, beautiful."

We know she was deeply religious, and that she had secret pleasures. Hill said, "Strawberries were her favorite dessert, so we found strawberry seeds all over the property, and blue and white china, which is so unlike Harriet for her to have this affection for these very fine things."

So, who was Harriet Tubman really? To Judith Bryant, she was Aunt Harriet: "I'm a great-great-grandniece," she said. Descended from Harriet's brother, William Henry Stewart, she's got bragging rights, but chooses not to brag. "It's my family," said Bryant. "People always say, 'Oh, I didn't know you were related to Harriet Tubman.' 'Of course, you didn't, but I did! We did!'"

judith-bryant-great-great-grandniece-of-harriet-tubman-with-martha-teichner-620.jpg
judith-bryant-great-great-grandniece-of-harriet-tubman-with-martha-teichner-620.jpg

Judith Bryant, a great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman, with correspondent Martha Teichner. CBS News

She invokes her famous relative when things go right: "We have this expression, I do, that Harriet's working overtime. She's sort of my guardian angel."

Tough and resolute to the very end, Tubman died in Auburn on March 10, 1913. She was 91 or thereabouts. Her funeral was a major event.

Harriet Tubman's grave has become a destination, a shrine for visitors in need of a hero. But her epitaph reads simply: "Servant of God. Well done."

When asked how she feels when visiting her grave site, Bryant said, "Proud. Proud."

harriet-tubman-grave-marker-620.jpg
harriet-tubman-grave-marker-620.jpg

Harriet Tubman's grave marker, a place of pilgrimage.  CBS News

For more info:

Harriet Tubman Historical SocietyHarriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, Church Creek, Md.Bucktown Village Store, Cambridge, Md. (Bucktown Village Foundation)Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Dorchester County, Md.Underground Railroad: Jacob and Hannah Leverton Home, Preston, Md.Caroline County (Md.) Historical Society Maryland Office of TourismHarriet Tubman National Historical Park, Auburn, N.Y. (National Park Service)Harriet Tubman House, Auburn, N.Y.The AME Zion Church, Auburn, N.Y.Seward House Museum, Auburn, N.Y."Harriet" opens in theatres on November 1 (Focus Features)

To watch a trailer for "Harriet" click on the video player below.

HARRIET | Official Trailer | In Theaters November 1st by Focus Features on YouTube

      Story produced by Robbyn McFadden.

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