Harriet Tubman to be featured on new $20 bill
CAMBRIDGE — The U.S. Treasury Department announced Wednesday, April 20 that the redesign of the $20 bill will feature abolitionist and Dorchester County native Harriet Tubman.
Representatives of the Harriet Tubman Organization in Cambridge said they are very pleased with the news.
“We are very very excited,” said Bill Jarmon, a member of the organization’s board. “This woman went out of her way to prove that if you have a mission you can fulfill it. We want to share with the rest of the world who she was and what she did.
There’s no better way to do that than to put it on some money,” he said. “It is another way to share her legacy, along with the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway and the national monument.”
“We’ve been waiting so long for her to be recognized. This is a celebration of a woman whose story continues to touch and change lives,” said Charles E. T. Ross, great great grand nephew of Tubman. “We are finally celebrating her life and work as other countries have for a long time. The national park is going to be a big change. More and more people are learning about her all the time.”
Tubman was born in Dorchester County and lived here as a slave until she was nearly 30 years old. She escaped slavery in 1849, yet risked her life to return to the Eastern Shore many times to help others in their journey to freedom. She helped around 70 slaves escape and led them north. Some went as far north as Canada.
“It would be a great tribute and her accomplishments certainly warrant this recognition,” said acting Cambridge Mayor Donald Sydnor. “I would love to spend that money,”
In 2013, President Barack Obama established the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Dorchester County, a precursor to National Historical Park designation.
In 2014, Congress passed a bill to create Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Parks.
The new park contains properties in three counties — Dorchester, Talbot and Caroline. The National Park Service has been allowed to acquire seven noncontiguous properties that were historically significant in Tubman’s life.
The park will consist of 2,775 acres in Dorchester County, 2,200 in Caroline and 775 in Talbot.
The parcel in Dorchester County contains the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free African-American man who communicated with Tubman’s family members and allowed his house to be used as one of the first safe houses on the Underground Railroad leading out of the Eastern Shore.
Other parcels include the site of what is believed to be Tubman’s birthplace near Madison in Dorchester County, and sites of the Brodess Plantation, where she worked as a young girl, the Cook Plantation, where she worked as a seamstress; and the Poplar Neck plantation, where she escaped slavery in 1849.
U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., urged the treasury department to act quickly to implement the redesign of the bill.
“It is long past time that a woman be featured on American currency,” she said. “I helped introduce a bill to honor Harriet Tubman on the front of the $10 bill by 2020, in time for the centennial of the 19th Amendment.”
Mikulski was also instrumental in the creation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park to open near Cambridge in spring 2017.
In 2012, Sen. Mikulski was given the Harriet Ross Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award by the Maryland African American Tourism Council for her work to promote the life and legacy of Tubman.
Mikulski was key to establishing a Harriet Tubman national monument and state park at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
In addition to her abolitionist work, Tubman was a strong advocate for a woman’s right to vote and equal rights in general.
“It’s great to see Secretary Lew honor Maryland’s Harriet Tubman by making her the first female to appear on United States currency,” said U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md.-1st. “I applaud the recognition of Harriet Tubman’s contribution to our nation’s history and I am proud to have joined with Senator Cardin to designate a national park in her honor last year.
“Her relentless fight for equality and justice is a testament to her courage and resolve to improve the American way of life,” he said. “Harriet Tubman is a role model for all Americans and someone who deserves to be honored.”
Harris joined forces with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., in 2014 to honor Harriet Tubman in the designation of a national park on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
“I can think of few people more deserving to be featured on the redesigned $20 bill than Harriet Tubman,” Cardin said. “A Marylander from the Eastern Shore, a conductor on the Underground Railroad with a 100 percent success rate, a Union scout during the Civil War and a champion of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, Harriet Tubman is one of America’s greatest patriots.
“Her likeness on the new $20 will serve as a constant reminder of the courage and self-sacrifice on which this nation was built,” he said. “The Treasury Department’s initiative to more accurately reflect the diversity of Americans who played pivotal roles in our history should be applauded.”
The design of the bill is expected to be released publicly in 2020, just in time for the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.
Harriet Tubman is pictured in this photo from about 1885.