New Harriet Tubman $20 bill represents change for the better

Jackie Keating, Forum contributor

On Wednesday, April 20, the United States Treasury Secretary, Jacob J. Lew, proposed to take the controversial and largely unpopular seventh president Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill and replace him with Union spy and abolitionist heroine Harriet Tubman.

This comes after a similar proposal last year that she have the ten, but the fanbase of the new wildly popular hip-hop musical “Hamilton” couldn’t let the face of the “$10 founding father without a father” go just as they discovered their love for him, so the departure of “Old Hickory” is set to take place.

This new bill is something I didn’t realize how badly I wanted until I heard that it’s going to happen. Not only will Tubman be the first person of color and the first woman to appear on the face of our paper currency “since Martha Washington’s portrait briefly graced the $1 silver certificate in the late 19th century,” according to the New York Times (Sacagawea appears on an obscure and unpopular one dollar coin) but she is overall just a more deserving American historical figure than the racist, slave-holding, violent man who glares from our wallets today.

While Andrew Jackson was forcing slaves to work on land that had been promised to Native Americans but which he claimed for himself, according to an article in The Week, Harriet Tubman was risking her own life day-in and day-out in order to send people who were bound in slavery to freedom.

Tubman was born a slave in 1820, but in 1849 she followed the North Star by night until she made it to freedom. For most people, I think that would have been it. But Tubman made trips back to the South again and again, first to deliver family members to the North, and then to rescue anyone who was willing to make the journey, according to PBS. She also wouldn’t take no for an answer; if slaves got nervous or tired and wanted to turn back, she would take out a gun and tell them that they’d “be free or die.”

Her involvement with the “Underground Railroad,” is often the extent of the knowledge people have about Harriet Tubman’s accomplishments. However, her intense bravery doesn’t stop there. She also was a great service to the Union army, cooking meals for soldiers and attending to their wounds.

Not only did this woman escape slavery and then risk her life multiple more times to help many more people escape, but she also served as a spy in the Civil War.

She even led her own operation. According to the Washington Post, “Tubman established a nine-man spy unit comprising local black riverboat pilots who knew the waterways well and taught them how to collect intelligence.” This team of elites sailed down the river and took notes of mine locations and other Confederate setups, which they then mapped out for the Union. The Union army was then able to make its way up the river, raiding Confederate supplies and using Tubman’s map as a guide. The raids also “freed more than 700 slaves,” according to The Washington Post, and about 100 of the freed men ended up joining the Union Army.

Despite this, there are still people who think Andrew Jackson, the man who forced huge numbers of Native Americans off their lands, creating the infamous Trail of Tears, should remain on the $20.

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, for instance, said on April 21 that the replacement of Jackson for Tubman is an act of “pure political correctness,” according to CNN. How about just “correctness,” Trump? Jackson was violent and racist figure whose legacy doesn’t represent the values that our country stands for. Tubman, on the other hand, signifies bravery, patriotism, and putting others before oneself, in addition to being a minority, which our currency obviously lacks.

Harriet Tubman personally delivered more than 300 slaves to freedom, and the Underground Railroad, of which she was a pivotal part, freed thousands. The least we can do to remember just what a crazy awesome role-model brave warrior woman she was is to put her on the face of the $20 bill.

The opinions expressed in Keating’s column do not necessarily reflect those of The Daily Barometer staff.

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