Tub­man’s a good call for the new $20 bill

Record Observer - - Opinion -

The U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment an­nounced last month that a com­ing re­design of the $20 bill will fea­ture abo­li­tion­ist and Mary­land na­tive Har­riet Tub­man. She will be the first woman and first African Amer­i­can so hon­ored.

No of­fense to An­drew Jack­son, whose im­age with its wild hairdo has been fea­tured on the $20 bill since 1928, but Tub­man is a bet­ter call. Jack­son was an ironic choice to be on the bill any­way, since he re­port­edly hated the no­tion of pa­per money, trust­ing more in the “hard” cur­rency of gold and sil­ver.

Here’s why Tub­man de­serves this ac­claim. She was born on the East­ern Shore, in Dorch­ester County, where she spent nearly 30 years as a slave. She es­caped slav­ery in 1849, but re­turned to Mary­land sev­eral times dur­ing the next 10 years to lead dozens of African Amer­i­cans — many of them fam­ily mem­bers — to free­dom in the North, us­ing a sys­tem of sup­port­ers and hid­den pas­sages along the way to avoid de­tec­tion.

Known as “Moses” by black and white abo­li­tion­ists alike, she re­port­edly never lost a “pas­sen­ger” on the Un­der­ground Rail­road. She later served as a spy and scout for the Union Army dur­ing the Civil War. She also led a raid in South Carolina to free slaves, be­com­ing the first woman to lead an Amer­i­can mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion.

“We are very, very ex­cited,” Bill Jar­mon, a mem­ber of the Har­riet Tub­man Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s board of di­rec­tors, said of the $20 bill’s re­design. “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.”

In 2013, Pres­i­dent Obama es­tab­lished the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Na­tional Mon­u­ment in her home county. A year later, Congress passed a bill to cre­ate Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Na­tional His­tor­i­cal Parks. The sites con­tain prop­er­ties in three coun­ties — Dorch­ester (2,775 acres), Caro­line (2,200 acres) and Tal­bot (775 acres). The Na­tional Park Ser­vice ac­quired that land in seven non­con­tigu­ous parcels that were his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant in Tub­man’s life.

“I can think of few peo­ple more de­serv­ing to be fea­tured on the redesigned $20 bill than Har­riet Tub­man,” U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said re­cently. “A Mary­lan­der ... 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 bill will serve as a con­stant re­minder of the courage and self-sac­ri­fice on which this na­tion was built. 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 U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, which granted women the right to vote.

Tub­man’s ef­forts against slav­ery and for women’s suf­frage demon­strate her life­long strug­gle for equal­ity and jus­tice for all. That courage makes her a fine choice to be cel­e­brated and re­mem­bered ev­ery time we reach into our wal­lets to pull out a $20 bill.

Sorry about that, An­drew Jack­son.

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