Julia Roberts was considered for the role of Harriet Tubman in 2019’s ‘Harriet’

Gray Moxley, Author



Whitewashing is a casting practice in film where white actors are cast to non-white characters, usually historic characters. In the early 1900s, characters of color were often played by white actors, usually portrayed in some form of blackface or exaggerating the stereotypes of a race. There are only two explanations for this practice, either the belief that white actors attract more audiences, or simply institutional racism.


Harriet was released on November 1st, 2019, and received decent reviews in theatre. The movie is biopic drama about the abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad to freedom during the 1800s. And apparently Julia Roberts was one studio executive’s first choice for the titular character, Harriet Tubman.


According to co-writer Gregory Allen Howard, one of the first things an executive said back when the idea was first pitched in 1994 was, “This is a great script. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.”


Apparently, it didn’t end at that comment either. When the single black person in the room told him Harriet was not white, the executive apparently responded, “That was so long ago. No one will know that.”


Though the process to get Harriet to the screen took a long time, it has finally reached the light. The lead actor of Harriet, Cynthia Erivo’s performance is considered to be amazing, even when critics think the movie becomes too melodramatic at times. Harriet Tubman is considered a hero during the abolitionist period, and risked her life to free thousands of slaves. She will always be remembered in history as brave and admirable.