One of the direct descendants of legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman has launched a scathing attack on Russell Simmons’ “crude and insensitive” depiction of her great-great-aunt.
In an emotionally-charged interview with theGrio, Rita Daniels says, “When I looked at it [the Harriet Tubman sex tape] tears streamed down my eyes. This is a woman who helped people. She was not about this.”
“She was on the run from slave masters. There was a bounty on her head. For her to get into a relationship like that would have been far-fetched,” she added.
Daniels, the great-great-grand-niece of Tubman, was responding to the widely condemned parody video that portrays the abolitionist, along with a fellow slave, conspiring to make a sex tape of Tubman with her master to bribe him to protect runaways.
The video was posted Wednesday. It appeared on Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital YouTube channel.
She describes the three-minute clip as an “awful video” and “nasty portrayal” of Tubman as a “whoremonger” that has “tainted her reputation.”
Daniels, who now resides in Atlanta, but was raised in Auburn, N.Y., where Tubman settled after the Civil War, says the family is “torn by the video” which is an “abomination to my great-great-aunt Harriet’s legacy and does not depict her accurately.”
The clip has been widely condemned as distorting Tubman’s legacy and making a mockery of slave rape.
In response to the backlash, Simmons was quick to issue an apology Thursday. But Daniels says, “for the people has he most hurt, this is not enough.”
“If he really means that apology he needs to call me,” she adds. She also dares the hip-hop mogul to put his money where his mouth is and back an apology to the family with concrete action to elevate Tubman’s legacy.
“He has got to fix what he messed up by contacting the family, educating himself; [he has to] work on educating other people and by doing something positive to fix what he broke.”
“A lot of these women were married,” says Daniels. “Whenever their slave master decided he wanted them they had no choice. It was abusive. They couldn’t say no. It was survival.”
What angers her most is that the younger generation may not know enough about Tubman and her unwavering commitment to the abolitionist cause, she says. “For those people who have viewed it they’re going to think that’s what she was about.”
It comes at a particularly “bad time,” says Daniels. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death.
“All these things have given honor to Tubman then along comes Simmons with his negative of depiction of what she stood for.”
Tubman was born into slavery before escaping in 1849. She led hundreds of slaves to freedom as part of the anti-slavery resistance network known as the Underground Railroad.
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti