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Drunk History recalls Harriet Tubman’s exploits as a Union Army spy

Now that the Treasury Department has announced that abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be replacing Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill, thus becoming the first African-American woman to be so honored, it is time to reflect on this extraordinary woman’s many significant achievements. True to its nature, Comedy Central’s Drunk History shed some light on a lesser-known chapter of Tubman’s life in a September 2015 episode entitled “Spies.” In one segment, after trying and failing to teach host Derek Waters the lyrics of a Bobby Shmurda song, a slightly inebriated Crissle West relates Tubman’s less-heralded exploits. “Harriet Tubman does not get her just due,” West explains. “You hear her name and think she led the slaves to freedom. But you most certainly do not know that she was a spy for the Union.”

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer portrays Tubman in a series of flashbacks. Working as a Union nurse, a dissatisfied Tubman approaches a colonel with a proposition, as woozily paraphrased by West: “I could totally be a spy for you. I have connects. Like, when I dress up as shit, those people have no idea who I am.” Disguising herself as a field hand, then, Tubman goes on a fact-finding mission and returns to the colonel with a plan to burn down plantations. After promising “some dope-ass shit,” she is put in charge of the stealth operation. Though temporarily distracted by the boom mic above her head, West nevertheless tells the story of Tubman’s heroic, daring raid in 1863 with great enthusiasm. “She was just dope as hell,” West concludes.


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