Unless you seem to be living under a rock, the name Aisha Hinds should sound familiar to you this year. Not only is the actress storming Wednesday evening television in Fox’s socially-lit drama Shots Fired, but she’s commanding the screen at 10 p.m. in WGN’s critical darling Underground. As Harriet Tubman, Hinds is stoic and mesmerizing as the storied slavery hater. Last night’s episode — at a special time — was a Harriet-centric entry.
This season the Macon 7 survivors have been scattered — Noah ran in and out of bondage; Cato purchased his freedom; Ernestine landed in the Carolinas; and, Rosalee became the understudy of the Underground Railroad’s Moses. Its through Rosalee that we’re first introduced to this most known unknown figure. While we all know what she did — defying the odds to free thousands from bondage — we have rarely seen her depicted beyond the pages of history textbooks and biographies. Underground gives us this privilege. And Aisha Hinds handles the role masterfully.
Last night’s episode saw Tubman speaking to a group of abolitionists. Lecturing on her experience, from bondage to freedom. She described her early dealings with rebellion, as a young girl set to work in her master’s home. Upon being beaten she recognized the freedom in defiance by not shedding a single tear from each lashing. She sought this feeling for the rest of her life.
Even as a free woman, Tubman recognized her work was not done. The very act of slavery, she defined as war upon black people, the black body. She came to this realization from the teachings of the one they called Captain Brown. John Brown, the white abolitionist and slave revolt leader, has been alluded to numerous times this season. The mention of his name stirs mixed emotions among those in the resistance. His violent tendencies are lamented as too extreme by some; while they’re praised by others. Tubman silences the bickering with the fact that they’re lack of consensus isn’t going to end the enemy’s assault on their livelihood.
Tubman agrees with Brown’s philosophy citing that not defending oneself from the violence enacted upon them would be settling in the brutality. Her words begin to sail from the set, through the screen, to the viewers, as the same climate of social unrest then mirrors the injustices today. The same distractions among those seeking freedom pop up, disabling the fight as the enemy’s hate spreads. Harriet is no longer speaking to the group of abolitionists in the show. Hinds is delivering a powerful call to action.
One of the most powerful performances of the year, Hinds and those a part of Underground aren’t just writing good TV. They are actively resisting remnants of the same vile philosophy that has kept blacks, PoC and anyone categorized as other in this country from bondage. You’re either with us or against us, as there are no negotiations for freedom. And none are free until all are free.
Underground airs Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. ET on WGN