A screenshot from "Harriet Tubman Sex Tape," a video that has Russell Simmons in trouble.
Russell Simmons got into trouble over a very un-PC video called “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” that appeared on his YouTube channel, All Def Digital (ADD). While Simmons can’t necessarily be held personally responsible for every piece of content on All Def Digital, he specifically endorsed “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” in a (now deleted) tweet, calling it the “Funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
The video shows Harriet Tubman scheming with a male black slave about how they will get their freedom. The man then hides in a closet with a video camera, so he can film Harriet Tubman getting it on with a white slave owner. It’s implied that Harriet Tubman went on to use the sex tape as black mail to free over 300 slaves (instead of the repeated rescue missions and use of the Underground Railroad—a series of safe houses—which the actual Harriet Tubman used).
“My first impression of the Harriet Tubman piece was that it was about what one of actors [sic] 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.”
The controversy comes at an inopportune time for Simmons, who is in a battle of open letters with CNN anchor Don Lemon regarding the source of the problems in the African American community. Simmons has argued that fairer treatment via government is the answer, while Lemon has called on black people to be more dignified. The “Harriet Tubman Sex Tape” controversy is at best a distraction from Simmons’ message, and may serve to undermine the reach of some of his valid and thoughtful points.