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Kerry James Marshall: Harriet Tubman

Kerry James Marshall: Harriet Tubman video still

Kerry James Marshall explains his decision to paint Harriet Tubman alongside her first husband John Tubman.

  • We think of Harriet Tubman
  • as a kind of mythic figure
  • within black history—
  • as a leader of the underground railroad,
  • taking slaves from slavery to freedom.

  • That’s what we think about
  • when we think about Harriet Tubman.

  • We never think about Harriet Tubman
  • as a woman who was married to anybody.

  • Take those two things:
  • her role in black history
  • and her identity as a woman.
  • Those things can both be dealt with;
  • with the blackness of that figure
  • representing the larger sort of mythic implication,
  • and then the naming
  • of herself and the seeing of her
  • with a man who was a husband.
  • That becomes the kind of personal idea of Harriet Tubman.