“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger. ” Harriet Tubman
Fittingly, for her commitment to her people and also for serving as a spy for the American army, Civil War abolitionist Harriet Tubman will now be the new face of the twenty-dollar bill, according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.
Harriet, known as the “Moses of her people,” was born a slave in 1822 in Maryland. She endured years of abuse and pain and eventually escaped a life in chains only to dedicate herself wholly to the freeing of slaves. She made 19 trips to the South where she escorted over 300 slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Tubman died, leaving a legacy of courage and determination behind, in March of 1913 at age 91.
Failed attempt at putting a woman on the $10
Prior to Tubman, the Obama administration had recommended that a woman replace Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill where he has been featured since 1929. This announcement was met with great resistance after the popular Broadway musical Hamilton’s Life rose to fame. This mission was eventually abandoned due to pressure from the play’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda who won a Pulitzer Prize for her efforts.
However, Lew states that the book Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, written by Catherine Clinton, is equally as important as the broadway musical. The book changed the way Lew viewed the Tubman that he learned about in school.
“I think most people are unaware of the full dimensions of her Civil War career. I’m a Civil War historian, and I was unaware,” said Clinton, a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “It took her 30 years to get her pension from the government, because she was a spy and a scout and she worked behind enemy lines.”
According to a letter written by a number of high-profile women including Ellen DeGeneres, Katie Couric and Gloria Steinem, putting women on the back of the $10 bill is more of an insult than anything. They urged that a woman be on the face of the $10 bill rather than redesign the $20 bill – which could definitely take longer, up to 10 years.
Other paper currency remakes
The twenty dollar bill is not the only bill that will get a long overdue remake. Hamilton will remain on the front of the ten dollar bill and the back will feature the story of the women’s suffrage movement, which led to the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote in 1920. The following women will he honored: Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul.
The five dollar bill will also get a facelift. President Lincoln will remain on the front and the image of the Lincoln Memorial will be redesigned to showcase various events that happened there including Opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert and the famous “I Have a Dream” speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.
Over 100 years since a woman was featured on a U.S. bill
The only other time that women were placed on U.S. paper currency was in the 1860’s when Pocahontas was on the backside of the twenty dollar bill and a little later on when Martha Washington appeared on the dollar certificate. Women have been featured on coins, including Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea on the dollar coin at different times, and Helen Keller on the Alabama special-issue quarter.
Harriet Tubman’s face on the twenty dollar bill is not just a symbol of honor for women and of freedom and justice for the African American people, but it is also a reminder of how caring for others, having a passion, and giving your life away can bring about radical change for the better! Putting this into practice will make the world a better place.
Harriet Tubman changed the world one slave at a time… what are you waiting for? Get out there and make a difference!
“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” – Harriet Tubman-Susan Patterson