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Harriet Tubman | From the Railroad to a Spy

2022 marked the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth, as well as the memory of one of America’s most profound figures. Tubman was one of the nation’s leading human rights activists who assumed many roles, including that of an Underground Railroad conductor, army scout, nurse, and women’s rights champion.

Little is known about Tubman’s work outside of the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she was in Beaufort County, South Carolina assisting in Union Army operations behind, as well as on the front line of battle. Among Tubman’s most notable wartime feats was that of June 2, 1863, where she participated in the planning and led Union troops from the 2nd South Carolina Infantry on a raid along the Combahee River. The operation was a pivotal and strategic victory for the Union Army and freed more than 750 enslaved people, making it the largest emancipation event of the Civil War. Colonel James Montgomery, commander of the regiment, later noted Tubman as “a most remarkable woman, and invaluable as a scout.”

Harriet Tubman | From the Railroad to a Spy is an epic documentary that tells her complete story. Journey through the events and details of her incredible life story that are seldom told; from the underground railroad, to her work as a Union Army scout and spy in military campaigns from South Carolina to Florida.

  • Luana M Graves Sellars
    Director
    Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition
  • Luana M Graves Sellars
    Writer
    Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition
  • Luana M Graves Sellars
    Producer
    Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition
  • Luana M Graves Sellars
    Voiceover
    Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Genres:
    History, Culture, Civil War, Black History, South Carolina History
  • Runtime:
    57 minutes 48 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 13, 2022
  • Production Budget:
    8,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No
  • AfroSouth Film Festival
    Charleston, SC
    United States
    November 4, 2023
    Official Selection
  • Bill Johnson Black Film Festival
    Gary, Indiana
    United States
    February 23, 2024
    Official Selection
  • Documentaries With Out Borders International Film Festivaal
    Rehobeh, Beach, Delaware
    United States
    April 21, 2024
    Official Selection
Director Biography - Luana M Graves Sellars

A native-born New Yorker, Luana M. Graves Sellars, quickly discovered that weather wise, she was really "a mis-placed Floridian". After a career in advertising as a media buyer, music promotions and marketing and owning two large capacity preschools, even though she has a degree in Journalism and Black History, she wasn’t prepared to live on Hilton Head Island, one of the most culturally rich and historic areas of the South. A passion for her Gullah Geechee roots led her to become a cultural influencer and preservationist through her writing, which is focused on educating others, as well as documenting Gullah culture, its history, and people. In 2021, she started her own company, Sankofa Communications and expanded her content creation into visual media, where she also writes, directs, and produces culturally focused video shorts and documentaries. To date, Luana has written, produced, directed, and voiced five historic documentaries: Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition, US Colored Troops | Stories of Courage, Determination and Survival. Her passion for preserving the culture includes raising funds to protect historic Gullah land as the Founder of the nonprofit(s) Lowcountry Gullah and the Lowcountry Gullah Foundation. Lowcountry Gullah was established to document and educate people about the rich significance of the culture and its role in American history and society today. The Foundation was formed to support the overall Lowcountry Gullah mission, and specifically focuses on preserving what’s left of historic Gullah land through a proactive approach, guidance and education.

A self-described community activist and cultural influencer, Luana spends most of her days working towards "residential equality" for Hilton Head Island's local Gullah community as one of the Native Island Leaders and a frequent speaker on sustaining Gullah culture. In 2019, she founded the Lowcountry Gullah Foundation, a nonprofit that raises funds to protect and preserve historic Gullah land for future generations. As a keynote speaker and community activist, she is doing her part to sustain and preserve Gullah Geechee culture for future generations.

It’s so important that we learn from the past to improve the future. So much history, especially Black & Gullah history, has been hidden from textbooks. She tells the untold stories that educate and inspire people to understand more about who they are.

Her passion for her Gullah Geechee roots led her to become a cultural influencer and preservationist through her writing and podcast, which is focused on educating others, as well as documenting Gullah culture, its history, and people. In 2021, she started her own company, Sankofa Communications and expanded her content creation into visual media, where she also writes, directs, voices and produces culturally focused video shorts and documentaries. To date, she is the complete content creator for five documentaries: Freedom Day | Exploring the Families of Historic Mitchelville, Juneteenth | The Birth of Freedom, Seeking | The Gullah Religious Tradition, Harriet Tubman | From The Railroad to a Spy and Colored Troops of the Civil War | Courage. Determination. Survival. - Film Festival Selection Nominations from Bill Johnson Black Film Festival 2024 and Documentaries Without Borders Nominee 2024.

The Harriet Tubman documentary premiered on PBS in April of 2023 and received a Selection Nomination(s) from the AfroSouth Film Festival 2023, Bill Johnson Black Film Festival 2024, Documentaries Without Borders Nominee 2024.

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Director Statement

This is my fourth documentary, but definitely my favorite. Harriet Tubman was an amazing contributor to US History who's full story needs to be told. This documentary is not about her work on the Underground Railroad, because everyone knows that story; this is about all of the incredible details of her life that most people will be surprised, impressed and motivated by.