Harriet Tubman is perhaps the most recognizable face of the abolitionist movement. In addition to her work in the Underground Railroad, she served in the Civil War as a scout, nurse, cook and spy for the Union. Because of all of this, I can’t begin to express how excited I am about Andrew Jackson being kicked off the face of the $20 bill and replaced with Harriet Tubman.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced that Tubman will be featured on a new series of the bills, making her the first African-American ever to appear on U.S. paper currency and the first woman to appear on it in more than 100 years. The irony of it all is simply brilliant. This means that Harriet Tubman, a former slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad, will be replacing Andrew Jackson, a slave-owner who drove Native American peoples off of their own land in the 1830s. Let that sink in. There’s just something so satisfying about knowing one of America’s worst “great” presidents is rolling in his grave.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about respecting the leaders of our country, but when the leaders of the country don’t respect their country’s people, there’s an issue. Andrew Jackson bought and sold slaves in bulk and pushed Native Americans out of their homelands on the Trail of Tears; you can’t convince me that this man respected the people of America as a whole.
Instead of fighting for the rights of each citizen of this country, Jackson openly opposed the rights of minority groups. In contrast, Tubman fought tooth-and-nail for the liberation of her people. She ventured to the South 19 times, leading hundreds of slaves to freedom. Harriet Tubman is essentially a real historic superhero, finally getting a slice of the recognition she deserves for her work.
Some have said that putting a black woman on U.S. currency may not be the best idea because of the way that the American capitalist system has repeatedly abused and disenfranchised people (and especially women) of color. U.S. currency has repeatedly been used to honor people of significant political influence and, honestly, as a society, we’ve done a terrible job of including women of color in this group.
And while I see where the naysayers are coming from, I think that the choice to put Tubman on the $20 is a significant move in the right direction for America. It’s time for us to recognize the influence of women of color in our history. Women like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Condoleezza Rice paved the way for today’s women of color to succeed, and they deserve recognition for their incredible work.
While this may seem small in the grand scheme of things, it’s certainly progress, and I can say with confidence that I can’t wait to pull a $20 bill out of my wallet and see Harriet Tubman’s face on it.