Women Who Protest – The Ongoing Fight for Global Justice

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Women protesting is not a new phenomenon. From the documented women’s march that took place in Versailles (1789), to the global suffragette movement, women protesting have impacted laws, changed policy, ousted political leaders and influenced societal change. What do we know of their advocacy efforts?

1. A woman blocks the road in Seoul, Korea, preventing anti-riot police from moving during anti-government protests. Taken 24 April 2015.

Globally and throughout history, women have engaged in protests to fight for their rights against oppressive regimes, misogyny, racism, homophobia, and patriarchy. Women have protested for liberty, democracy and religious freedom. Activism has been driven by the fight for the right to vote, drive and for equal access to education. Housing rights, land rights and access to politics have also been on women’s agenda. Protests have been peaceful and violent. They have taken place online, in-person, individually and collectively. Despite women’s historic contributions to protest, they still go largely unrecognised for their bravery and impact.  

2. In 1985, Danuta Danielsson famously hit neo-nazis protesting with her handbag which was caught on camera in the iconic photograph, pictured left.
3. Years later, also in Sweden, Tess Asplund individually faced over 300 neo-nazis in the town of Borlange, pictured right.  

Women-led protests happen on local, national, and international scales. Women have successfully organised across borders, taking a coordinated approach to highlight the gendered climate crisis, the effects of wars and the impacts of racism.

Alaa Salah famously led pro-democracy protests in Sudan, and was successful in overthrowing the authoritarian, Sudanese government. A famous picture of her standing on a car, speaking to fellow protestors went viral.  Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawang, a nun residing in Myanmar was photographed protesting against armed police asking them to spare the lives of children and other protestors.  A weekly demonstration takes place in Korea, known as the ‘Wednesday demonstration’, advocating for justice for Comfort Women. Comfort Women were enforced into slavery by the Japanese military, and 2011 marked its 1000th demonstration.

Images 4, 5 and 6 left to right*.

In recent decades, women have protested, successfully advancing access to reproductive rights. In countries such as Ireland and Brazil, bills have been passed for the right to access safe services, all due to pressure from protestors. Protests raged against the Mexico City Policy (also known as the Global Gag Rule) which restricts women’s access to abortion services related to US Aid.  The recent wave of protests in solidarity with the ‘MeToo’ movement sees women protest for the right to be free from sexual harassment. The conviction of multiple perpetrators is largely attributed to the movements impact.

Locally, in Bristol, Jen Reid became a key symbol of hope amidst protests organised by the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement founded by three women. A statue of Jen Reid was installed on the plinth of the Colston statue, only for it to be removed less than twenty-four hours later. However, this has started conversations around the lack of statues of women protesters.  

7. Jen Reid standing next to the statue created of her by Marc Quinn, June 2020.

Women protestors have shown immense courage in the face of resistance, to fight for their rights and others. In an era of globalisation, women are increasingly becoming a united front with transnational organisations fighting for women’s rights. With the recent decision to over-turn ‘Roe vs. Wade‘, what’s next for women who protest? 

Grace Biddulph – Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity.


4. Taken 5 May 2010 in Quito. A woman protests a Water Privatization Law known for impacting indigenous people. [Description: A woman is arguing against police, with a photographer and on-lookers circling them both.]

5. Taken 9 July 2016. The protester pictured is Ieshia Evans, who was detained for protesting the shooting of Alton Sterling. [Description: The image includes a woman facing three police offers with a line of police offers behind]

6. Taken 11 September 2016 during pro-democracy protests in Santiago, Chile. [Description: a close-up of a woman staring directly into the face of the police]

See the original images and more here.

Intern with UWE’s Student Ventures shares their experience

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written by Jennifer Ukachukwu Amarachi

Going into university it was made very clear early on that internships were very important for students.  I decided to join multiple programmes online and in person because of this.  I had focused mainly on specific career areas such as Law and HR prior entering university, however I wanted to try something new and develop the skills had not been used in quite a while.

Fortunately, I was offered an internship here at UWE Bristol with the Student Ventures team through the 10,000 Black Interns Programme.  I had joined the team at quite a busy moment in the year for the Student Ventures, with scholarships, events and preparation for freshers going on at the time.

I really enjoyed this internship, I learned so much, was able to create things that I wasn’t able to do in other internships and hopefully I have left my own positive mark on Student ventures.

I had quite a lot of work to do in the team ranging from helping hold workshops to admin work to creating content; but I enjoyed every bit of it. My favourite tasks surprisingly were creating content for the twitter page and helping hold workshops. I got to talk and connect with a lot of the scholars under Student ventures because of it and learn much about why the student scholars joined student ventures and what projects they were working on.  You can look at some of the content I made on @UWEVentures on twitter and @uwestudentventures on Instagram.

Alongside the work at Student Ventures the interns and I also took part in an external project, which focused on event creation and inclusivity. Even though we were only able to meet a few times it was a great chance to work with the other interns working under different branches at UWE Bristol and learn from one another.

Working at student ventures allowed me to hone my creative skills and get experience in marketing and careers. I was fortunate to have a great team (shout out to Meg, Gabi, Lewis & Callum) who integrated me smoothly into the team and allowed me to get insight into what they did at Student Ventures alongside offering me a coffee each morning; I think they were determined to make me a coffee lover.

The Hindu Festival of Raksha Bandhan

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By Jaya Mistry, Equity Project Officer, Equality Diversity and Inclusivity Team

Raksha Bandhan is on 11th August and is centred around the tying of a thread, bracelet or talisman called a Rakhi on the wrist as a form of bond, ritual protection and love between brothers and sisters. It will start as soon as a child is born, with parents tying the Rakhi on behalf of the sister until they are old enough to tie the Rakhi.

What is a Rakhi?

Rakhis are sold in Indian shops alongside religious artefacts and household goods in Indian grocery/sari shops, and also can be bought online. Rakhis are normally red and gold, however, you can buy them in a variety of colours with lots of different centre pieces.

Image description: Image shows eight Rakhi bracelets on a white background. The thread is red or yellow with some beads in the middle of each bracelet.
Image description: eight Rakhi bracelets on a white background. The thread is red or yellow with some beads in the middle of each bracelet.

What does Raksha Bandhan mean to me?

Since I moved away from my hometown, the festival of Raksha Bandhan is very special to me. It is an opportunity to plan a visit to see my brothers and tie the Rakhi and have a lovely day together. The tradition is to take a box of mithai (Indian sweets) or chocolates/sweets along with your Rakhi.

I start by putting a little dot (tilak) of kumkum red powder along with a few grains of rice on my brother’s forehead, tie the Rakhi which is usually quite a sturdy one as my brother likes to keep the Rakhi on as long as possible, then offer him a chocolate/sweet. In return my brother will give me a small gift which is usually monetary.  I will also make a card or sometimes buy one – the message is one of love, protection, good health, and happiness always.

Image description: Image shows five Rakhi bracelets tied on a person’s wrist.
Image description: five Rakhi bracelets tied on a person’s wrist.

A Rakhi can also be tied on a cousin brother or anyone you have formed a brotherly bond with. About 20 years ago I met a distant cousin visiting from Australia who asked if I could send him a Rakhi as he didn’t have a sister which was such an honour and also brought us closer together – I sent my Rakhi last week and hope this will reach in time for Raksha Bandhan on the 11th August.

Pride for all: International Non-Binary People’s Day

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As we clean up the rainbows and glitter from another wonderful Bristol Pride, it’s important for us to reflect on the progress that has been made and how far we still have to go to ensure inclusion and equality for all people in the LGBTQ+ community.

International Non-Binary People’s Day

 The 14th of July is International Non-Binary People’s Day, which celebrates non-binary individuals around the world. It was founded in 2012 and was chosen as it falls directly between International Men’s Day and International Women’s Day.

What does it mean to be non-binary?

Non-Binary Gender: How To Talk To Kids | Moms.com
– A picture displaying the different identifications/pronouns people align themselves with.

Non-binary is an umbrella term for gender identities that are neither male nor female and includes people who are genderqueer, gender fluid, agender, and more. Because non-binary people typically identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth, they also fall under the trans/transgender umbrella. Some non-binary people however will not consider themselves to be trans so it’s important to respect the terms that people use to describe themselves.

There is a long a rich history of non-binary individuals throughout the world, many who have been impacted by colonialism. You can find out more about non-binary identities in history and in different cultures.

What’s it like being non-binary in the UK today?

Currently, non-binary people in the UK do not have legal recognition, meaning many have to choose between ‘male’ and ‘female’ on official documents like passports, driving licenses and marriage certificates. Furthermore, there are high rates of poor mental health among non-binary individuals and over 30% in a 2015 study reported being the victim of physical harassment.

How can I be an ally to non-binary people?

This International Non-Binary People’s Day, consider implementing some of the tips below in your everyday life:

  1. Introduce yourself with your name and pronouns if you feel comfortable. This reminds people how you want to be referred to and gives non-binary people the space and confidence to do the same.
  2. There is so much gendered language all around us from pronouns, titles, ‘ladies and gentlemen’, or asking about someone’s ‘wife’ or ‘husband’. Try to avoid gendered language and use terms like ‘folks’, ‘spouse’, and use ‘they’ to refer to people whose pronouns you don’t know. You can also give people the option to use non-gendered titles like ‘Mx’ (pronounced mix or mux).
  3. Be an intersectional ally and actively learn about and campaign for non-binary people of Black, Asian and Ethnic backgrounds, refugees and asylum seekers, disabled, or otherwise minoritised in society.
  4. Include non-binary people when celebrating LGBTQ+ people in your events or when highlighting role models.
  5. Make sure policies, documents, and learning materials use inclusive language.
  6. Support the rights of non-binary people: educate yourself and others.

To learn more, check out these resources:

Stephen Lawrence Day 2022 – A Legacy of Change.

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In 1993, Stephen Lawrence was murdered by a group of white males in a racially motivated attack whilst waiting at a bus stop with his best friend. His death caused waves within the South London community he had grown up in and swept across the nation in the years that followed, where the mishandling of the case sparked the debate of the Metropolitan Police being institutionally racist. Seven years after his death this was confirmed by an inquiry, proving racial bias influenced the efforts to solve the case.

Thirteen years later in 2012, two men were found guilty of his murder after new evidence was discovered and both received life sentences.

For over two decades, Stephen’s mother, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, tirelessly campaigned for police reform and founded Blueprint for all, formerly the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust in his memory. In 2003 she was awarded an OBE in recognition of her efforts and in 2019, launched Stephen Lawrence Day on April 22nd to further commemorate her son.

Baroness Doreen describes her work across the last twenty-six years as the hope to create an “inclusive society for everyone to live their best life, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, religion, disability or background”.

Baroness Doreen Lawrence

For Stephen Lawrence Day 2022, you can get involved tomorrow by donating to the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation and amplifying and supporting their Instagram by liking, commenting and sharing their posts using the #alegacyofchange hashtag.

UWE Bristol also offers the following courses on My learning to raise your awareness around race and racism to work towards a cultural change across the institution:

  • Speak Up: talking about race and becoming an active bystander
  • Unconscious bias
  • Understanding bias: helping to eliminate prejudice in organisations.

Committed to gender equality? Learn more about Athena Swan at UWE.

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Athena Swan is a charter mark that drives UWE’s work on gender equality. The Athena SWAN Steering Group leads the application to the charter mark and ensures the development of strategic actions. The team are currently seeking new members from across the university to support UWE’s gender equality journey in a number of departments. This will be an excellent development opportunity, for those committed to advocating for equality, diversity and inclusion. 

What is Athena Swan? 

Athena Swan is a global charter mark, used in the higher education sector to support and transform gender equality. It is a framework to recognise gender equality efforts, and also helps institutions identify areas of development. Athena SWAN awards usually last five years and applications require institutions to submit gender-disaggregated data and provide an action plan, outlining key objectives for gender equality. During renewal processes, applicants must assess their development against their action plans. A key outcome is to ensure universities can be held accountable against their proposed action plans. As a Steering Group member, you will ensure the university is ambitious in its approach to progressing towards gender equality goals, feeding back concerns at a high level, and sharing best practices.  

Athena Swan at UWE 

UWE’s action plan, created in 2017, maps out key focus areas including; addressing issues related to the intersection of gender and ethnicity, reducing gender pay gaps, improving gender balances in promotional rounds and increasing awareness of family-friendly policies.  

The university currently holds a Bronze award at institutional award and several awards at departmental level: 

  • Department of Health and Social Science (Bronze) 
  • Departments of Allied Health Professions and Nursing and Midwifery (Bronze) 
  • Department of Engineering, Design and Mathematics (Bronze) 
  • Architecture and the Built Environment (Bronze) 
  • Applied Sciences (Silver) 

Due to the upcoming re-structure within the university, these awards will be extended to allow colleges and schools to align. During this transition process, the Steering Group is responsible for ensuring that the university continues to have a robust approach to developing the outputs mapped out in the action plan.  

UWE’s Athena Swan steering group 

The Athena Swan Steering group is currently chaired by Martin Augustus and Sarah Grabham, and the Vice-chair is Clare Wilkinson. Suzanne Carrie and Vicky Swinerd are key representatives from EDI and Grace Biddulph is the EDI officer for the meetings. The Steering Group is made up of colleagues from across the university all working on gender equality. Currently, topics on our meetings agendas are family-associated leave, the impacts of COVID on different genders, trans health care provisions, levels of women in promotional rounds and much more.

The Steering Group should be representative of the university community and have at least two representatives from each department (soon to be college) and service across campuses. We are particularly keen to have representatives who may have lived experience of a protected characteristic (for example, race, sexual orientation or disability) but welcome applications from anyone interested in getting involved. Members may be designated areas of responsibility and should represent a mixture of grades and roles representing different stages of the career ladder, including students. As this work is focused on gender equality, we particularly welcome staff who identify with diverse gender identities, expressions or sexual orientations, for example, people who identify as trans, non-binary or gay. 

“Athena Swan is an important part of our university commitment to embedding equality, diversity and inclusion. Colleagues from all areas across the University play an important role in championing and embedding gender equality, enabling us to continually challenge ourselves to strive for excellence”. 

Amanda Coffey, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

What next? 

Vacancies are currently available in:

  • Art and Design  
  • Education and Childhood
  • Business and Management
  • Law
  • Computer Science and Creative Technologies
  • EDM
  • School of Health and Social Wellbeing
  • Applied Sciences
  • Research Representative
  • Awards Officer
  • Marketing
  • HR

For an informal discussion about the roles please contact Martin Augustus (Martin.Augustus@uwe.ac.uk) or Sarah Grabham (Sarah.Grabham@uwe.ac.uk). 

Applications should be submitted to the EDI team on edi@uwe.ac.uk by Friday 20th May using the expression of interest form (Word). Please ensure you check with your line manager if this role is suited to your work commitments. Please state which vacancy you are applying for. 

Currently, meetings are held online on teams. We expect new members joining to be available for an initial in-person meeting, to meet peers and the Athena Swan team. This will take place Tuesday 14th June, 12-1pm.  

An Evening of Gender Exploration Through Performance and Art.  

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Continuing conversations after LGBTQ+ History Month, Arnolfini hosted an evening of visual work which included a performance of ‘Beyond the Buzzwords’ by internationally renowned queer artist and icon, Del LaGrace Volcano.  This was a collaboration with UWE’s School of Art & Designs Visual Culture Research Group and Social Sciences Research Group.

The evening was opened by UWE’s Rachel Miles, Senior Lecturer of Visual Culture, and Bristol performance artist Tom Marshman with a rendition of ‘Deuce 2’. The performance explored gender and sexuality whilst growing up in the 80s. The performance focused on finding solidarity and friendship in other LGBTQ+ individuals and was structured around a Vanity Fair cover, released in 1993, with Kd Lang and Cindy Crawford. The image was deemed progressive for the time for being a visual representation of queer relationships in media. 

Next up was Del LaGrace Volcano, an international photographer known for their work documenting LGBTQ+ lives, and promoting queer culture. Del LaGrace shared their creative inspiration, which is embedded in the firm belief in non-hierarchal societies and relationships. Their feminist methodology centralises working with people, rather than objectifying bodies as sites for consumption. Del La Grace talked openly about ageing, relationships, raising children as non-binary and the societal resistance they have faced in this decision. 

Del LaGrace shared their personal and professional journey through imagery, with an expansive archive of photographs taken throughout their career. From growing up attending political and civil rights events to years attending art school in San Francisco, Del LaGrace portrays the often-overlooked LGBTQ+ communities in America since the 80s. They also shared multiple, powerful images of global pride marches with well-known icons such as Ian McKellen.    

Del LaGrace was assigned female at birth but now identifies as a gender queer, intersex artist. They have focused on raising awareness of intersex, queer, trans and marginalised lives through photography, focusing on portrait images and images of the body as a site for exploration and expression. Threaded throughout the talk was the consistent message of making queer bodies more visible, and how they have been historically contested in media and society. They discussed the use of photography as a form of activism and as a way of celebrating gender non-conformity.  

The event was attended by UWE staff and students and the general public. Thank you to the event organisers for an insightful and engaging evening. You can read an interview with Del LaGrace Volcano, with Bristol magazine, 24/7 here.  

Why Transgender Day of Visibility matters

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by Cal Russell-Thompson, Project Officer, FBL

Transgender Day of Visibility takes place on 31st March. It was founded in 2009 by transgender activist Rachel Crandall to celebrate transgender and nonbinary people – and mark their struggle for civil rights around the world.

What is being transgender?

Gender identity is who you are, your self-perception, and how you would describe yourself.

Most people feel comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth based on their primary sexual characteristics (cisgender).

Some people are transgender (trans). Trans women are typically presumed to be male at birth, but actually feel feminine, and would much rather live as women. Meanwhile, trans men are typically presumed to be female at birth, but actually feel masculine, and would much rather live as men.

In addition, some people are nonbinary, meaning they don’t see themselves as strictly “male” or “female”.

Each trans and nonbinary person is unique, and the community is as diverse as any other. Being trans and nonbinary is not a “new” phenomenon; gender fluidity has a documented history spanning thousands of years, and is likely as old as human society.

What’s it like being trans in the UK?

It would be amazing for Transgender Day of Visibility to be a simple day of celebration. But while public attitudes are broadly positive, two thirds of British trans people still hide their identity, fearing that others might react negatively.

Many things motivate this fear. 25% of British trans people have experienced homelessness, while 28% have faced domestic abuse from a partner. Transphobic hate crime is also increasing, with trans people in England and Wales currently twice as likely to suffer crime. There’s also been an increase in negative coverage of trans people in British media over the last decade.

This is complicated further by legal barriers to recognition. You still can’t legally self-define your gender outside of the “male” and “female” binary; and if you’re a trans man or woman, you still can’t legally change your gender without medical permission.

Sadly, these system-wide factors have exacerbated poor mental health outcomes for many trans and nonbinary people in the UK.

What does the future look like?

There are glimmers of hope. Social attitudes are changing, and this is beginning to have an impact. A recent employment tribunal ruling extended protection against workplace discrimination to nonbinary and genderfluid people. Eventually, medical barriers to gender recognition will likely disappear altogether, as in countries like Norway, Brazil, France, India, and Ireland. And as trans and nonbinary voices become more prominent in the media, the world will start to feel like a safer place to come out.

So, there does appear to be a better future for trans and nonbinary people. But it can only be realised if progress continues to be made in how society represents, treats, and understands us.

It is for this reason that we celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility: as a reminder of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.

Abortion Rights and Reservation Politics in Young Lakota

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Women’s History Month offers the opportunity to shine a spotlight on often overlooked contributions to culture. This March, UWE third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly film reviews that showcase women’s lives globally. This week, Lydia Cooper reviews ‘Young Lakota’.

Sunny Clifford and Brandon Ferguson in a shot from Young Lakota Dir. Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt, ITVS, 2013

Young Lakota is an inspiring, and at times brutal, documentary about the struggle of Native American women to have their voices and opinions respected within their own community, and within the United States at large.

Young Lakota focuses on three young people living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota during an election with abortion issues at the heart. At the beginning of the documentary, state officials in South Dakota propose a bill that would effectively ban abortion in all contexts, and when the Tribal President of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, publicly opposes this, announcing her plans to open an abortion clinic on the reservation, she is impeached.

During the next election for tribal president, twins Sunny and Serena Clifford throw their support behind Cecilia and her campaign, attempting to get information out to other residents. These moments of campaigning are particularly poignant as their frustration at the lack of care some in the community have for abortion issues is clear. Sunny and Serena’s neighbour Brandon Ferguson gets hired to work for the candidate opposing Cecilia, much to the disappointment of Sunny and Serena, who saw him as a pro-choice ally prior to this.

Although the film does largely focus on the campaign, directors Marion Lipschutz and Rose Rosenblatt scatter moments of the subjects reflecting on life on the reservation throughout the film, helping to contextualise the issues and conflict within the community. Although the low life expectancy, substance abuse and poverty that prevails over many reservations in the United States is often reported on, it’s good to see these issues being spoken about by people who actually live these experiences, and to contextualise these issues with the way the Native American community has been treated historically and today.

Although there are many shots of the beautiful surrounding landscape, most of the time we see the subjects in their cars, or inside their houses, cluttered with documents, leaflets and children’s toys. When we do see them together, outside with others from the reservation towards the end of the film, it is a refreshing change to the fractured community and relationships bringing Young Lakota to a more positive hopeful end.

Further viewing on Kanopy:

Personhood (2019) – Dir. Jo Ardinger

Argentina: My Body, Their Choice (2019) – Dir. Lucy D’cruz

Harriet – The Long Overdue Biopic of Harriet Tubman

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Women’s History Month offers the opportunity to shine a spotlight on often overlooked contributions to culture. This March, UWE third-year BA Film Studies students are providing a series of weekly film reviews that showcase women’s lives globally. This week, Aoife Ranyell reviews ‘Harriet’.

Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, in Harriet, dir. Kasi Lemmons, United International Pictures, 2019 [Description: close up of a woman’s face with a pensive expression looking into the distance, there are trees behind her in the background.]

Women’s History Month was created to highlight and celebrate the contributions of women – past and present – in history and modern society. For all of us, there will be a handful of influential names that come to mind when we think about significant female figures who have made a difference in the world, and for many, one of those women will be American abolitionist and political activist, Harriet Tubman.

Despite her extraordinary life and work – born into slavery in Maryland, escaping and fleeing on foot almost 100 miles to Pennsylvania (a journey that could’ve taken up to 3 weeks), subsequently returning to help rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, going on to become an armed scout in the Civil War, and become a prominent activist for women’s suffrage – Harriet, is the first biopic to tell Harriet Tubman’s story. After being in the works for several years, Harriet finally came to fruition in 2019. Female-directed, by the wonderful Kasi Lemmons, and boasting a stellar cast including Cynthia Erivo as Harriet, Leslie Odom Jr., Clarke Peters, Janelle Monáe, and many more, Harriet is an accessible film for those that aren’t the most aware of Tubman.

Lemmons beautifully captures the sprawling landscapes of the American countryside basking in golden sunlight, and Harriet’s aggressive fight for her freedom. The visuals are complemented by a powerful and moving score (composed by Terence Blanchard) – which is a little marmite at times, but it is undeniably affective. However, the real standouts are the performances: Cynthia Erivo’s performance as Harriet is enthralling, and her command carries the film along. Even without dialogue she manages to keep control of the film as her eyes capture Harriet’s blazing spirit, so it’s no surprise that it garnered her several nominations, including Best Actress from the Academy.

Although it’s not the most ground-breaking biopic, nor does it really delve into the intricacies or the real adversities of Tubman’s life and story, Harriet is an important watch, and pays a respectful tribute to an extraordinarily important woman. A woman whose courage and heroism truly impacted America, and who deserved a biopic many years before this.

If you’re not a fan of the Hollywood-style biopic, but want to learn about Harriet Tubman, then YouTube has several documentaries (long and short) available, including:

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