A Harriet Tubman “sex tape” produced by mogul Russell Simmons has earned a strong rebuke from a fellow entertainment industry giant.
The video showed Tubman in a racy encounter with a white slave owner, which she secretly videotapes to blackmail the owner into allowing her to start the Underground Railroad. It appeared on Simmons’ All Def Digital YouTube channel.
There was an immediate backlash against the video, which was deemed insensitive to Harriet Tubman and the abolitionist cause. One of the loudest voices condemning the video was director and civil rights activist Spike Lee.
“I’m a very liberal person with thick skin. My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors said in the video, that 162 years later, there’s still tremendous injustice. And with Harriet Tubman outwitting the slave master? I thought it was politically correct. Silly me. I can now understand why so many people are upset. I have taken down the video. Lastly, I would never condone violence against women in any form, and for all of those I offended, I am sincerely sorry.”
But the Harriet Tubman video still didn’t sit right with Spike Lee, who lashed out against Russell Simmons on Twitter.
The Harriet Tubman video would seem to fit within Spike Lee’s definition of desecration. In it, Harriet Tubman tells a male friend that her plan to sleep with her master is the “only chance to gain freedoms.” The man hides in a closet to videotape the encounter while Harriet brings the slave owner into the room.
“Oh, Massa, all these years I been actin’ like I didn’t love our special time together,” she says. “Tonight that’s all going to be different.”
But after they’re finished, Tubman tells the slave owner she now has “leverage,” and threatens to tell everybody “about your N—- loving.”
The cameraman then reveals himself, and the video cuts to Harriet Tubman with her companion, who says thanks viewers for watching Russell Simmons’ video.