The lengths this presidential administration will go to in order to erase decisions made by the Obama administration or insult Blacks while signaling white supremacists are nothing short of stunning.
Those can be the only reasons that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced to a House Financial Services Committee meeting in May that the Obama administration’s 2016 decision to substitute Harriet Tubman for Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill would “not be an issue that comes up until most likely 2026.”
Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the U.S. who was elected in 1828, owned about 300 slaves. He was a driving force behind the Trail of Tears — the forced relocations of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands. He was impeached for attempting to dismiss his secretary of war, narrowly escaping conviction by the Senate. Ironically, he opposed both the idea of a national bank and paper money. Yet his face still appears on America’s currency.
Compare Jackson to Harriet Tubman, an extraordinary woman who was born a slave and became the abolitionist and activist best-known for rescuing slaves, family and friends via at least a dozen trips on the network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
Tubman, born into slavery, once said of her own journey to freedom: “I had crossed the line, I was free; but there was no one to welcome me to the land of freedom. I was a stranger in a strange land.” But she saw to it that others, whose tears she had seen and whose sighs and groans she had heard, as she put it, found welcome on their difficult and dangerous journeys, because she had vowed to “give every drop in my veins to free them.”
In 1850, having escaped slavery, she returned to Maryland after learning her niece was about to be auctioned off. After helping lead the niece and her family to safety, Tubman went on to rescue more than 70 other slaves at that time, and continued her mercy missions until the Civil War broke out. She is thought to have saved as many as 3,000 slaves and she never failed in a single rescue, earning the nickname “Moses.”
Tubman, who was illiterate, often used disguises, sometimes pretending to read a newspaper or dressing like a field hand with chickens in tow. She also used spirituals and other songs as code for her followers. She managed to avoid police, dogs, mobs and slave catchers, and often slept in swamps, moving on only at night. Known as the “black ghost,” she was the subject of a bounty of about $12,000 — $330,000 in today’s dollars.
During the Civil War she served as an army nurse on the Union side, and scouted or spied behind enemy lines. On one famous mission in South Carolina, she helped free 700 slaves in one go. Having worked for the army for three years, she applied for veteran’s compensation when the war ended. It took 34 years for her to get it after President Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward intervened. She was 78 years old at the time.
Although impoverished after the war, Tubman became active in the women’s suffrage movement, traveling to New York and Washington to give speeches despite having occasional seizures resulting from a childhood injury. In the 1890s she underwent brain surgery to alleviate lifelong headaches, refusing anesthesia for the operation as she had seen soldiers do.
Harriet Tubman’s life came to an end in 1913 in Auburn, N.Y., in a home for the aged that she had founded. She was 91 and was buried with military honors not far from the grave of William Seward. She had lived an amazing life, especially for an African American woman at that time.
This is the woman the Trump administration refuses to honor on the $20 bill.
New Yorker Dano Wall, an artist who’s been working with 3-D printers since 2012, has created a stamp that allows users to superimpose Tubman’s face over Jackson’s on the $20 note. Previously available online as an act of civil disobedience, it has quickly sold out since the delay was announced by Mnuchin. Wall reported in May, shortly after the announcement, that he’d received over 2,000 requests for more stamps. Apparently, the notes with the Tubman stamp have been used successfully in vending machines, although shops and banks may not recognize them as legal tender — yet.
Still, if $20 Tubman bills keep turning up, it’s enough to send a signal to the Treasury Department and the Oval Office. Who knows? It might even make the racist Andrew Jackson turn over in his grave. Holy Moses!