Last Wednesday, the US Treasury Department confirmed it would be overseeing a complete overhaul of its widely used denominations—$5, $10 and $20 bills—to include new historical figures—six females and one male—on the front and back of the bills. Among those new faces will be Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill; Martin Luther King Jr, Marian Anderson and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on the $5 bill; and a redesign of the $10 depicting suffragists Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth.
While the makeover is being applauded for its depiction of women, it has been more than 100 years since a woman has been featured on US paper money—Martha Washington graced the silver dollar note in 1886, 1891 and 1896 (that year featured George Washington). It is also receiving accolades for its depiction of African-Americans for the first time in history, but that progress is undermined by bigotry—especially in regards to the $20 bill.
The redesign of the $20 bill will have Harriet Tubman sharing the proverbial stage with its current holder, former president Andrew Jackson. Tubman will be placed on the front of the bill, where Jackson currently is; he’ll be moved to the back, where the White House is currently shown. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, Tubman—an African-American born into slavery—fought rigorously for the freedom of slaves and led many to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Jackson, however, was a slave owner in addition to being the seventh US president, and he had been involved in the systematic genocide of Native Americans in the Trail of Tears. Putting Tubman on the same bill as Jackson is not only tasteless and offensive, it disrespects Tubman entirely.
While it’s encouraging that that African-Americans are getting this kind of honour, it shouldn’t be at the cost of what those individuals fought for. America, do your African-American population a solid and just give Tubman the bill entirely. V