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Yvette Carnell: Why Did a Biracial Actress Portray Harriet Tubman in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”?

by Yvette Carnell

I have nothing against actress Jaqueline Fleming, the actress who portrayed Harriet Tubman in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer”, except that she doesn’t look a thing like  the real Tubman.

Unlike Fleming, Tubman wasn’t born in Copenhagan to a Danish-German mother, and Tubman’s dark skin and African features attest to that.

So why was Fleming cast to portray Harriet Tubman in a movie?

Take a look around, and you’ll note that darker skinned blacks, in history and on film, are being replaced with blacks who are more palatable to white people.  And Tubman, a heroine of the abolitionist movement,  must also be palatable to white culture, which requires that she be white,  or damn near it.

And before you go accusing me of colorism, consider that I’m light skinned, and yet, would never pretend that I could, or should, portray Shirley Chisholm in a movie. Even if I could act, I know that in order for Chisholm to be portrayed accurately, that role must go to Regina King, or some other equally talented, and brown, actress. I’d be a fool to think that throwing a little make-up on a light skinned woman amounts to an accurate portrayal of Chisholm. It doesn’t. In fact, it amounts to a betrayal.

To contract a biracial woman to portray a darker skinned black woman is actually racist since the act itself is based on white supremacy. Not only should Fleming never have been cast in the role, she should’ve never shown up for the casting call. To do so was to dishonor Tubman, and so Fleming bears some responsibility in this as well.

And, of course,  the world laughs at us, as we sit back and watch ourselves be undermined by fraudulent representations, and invalidated as others rewrite darker skinned blacks out of history.

Confederates of the Civil War were traitors, and yet you still see their ancestors rise up to defend them. But African Americans have no problem allowing Tubman to be undermined on the silver screen, and permanently altered in the minds of people who will use this movie,  as well as other misrepresentations, as a reference point.

Give it 75 years or so, and all the new rewritten textbooks will have images of photoshopped Tubman, a lighter skinned version of her authentic self, and the period that we are currently in will be forever known as the Great Erase, where black people, and black culture, were erased and replaced. I get so tired of saying this but, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Yvette Carnell is a former Capitol Hill and campaign staffer turned writer. She is currently an editor and contributor to Yourblackworld.

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