Harriet Tubman was born a slave, her family callously bought and sold with American dollars, like livestock. She died free. Now she will be remembered as the first black woman to grace the front of that very same U.S. currency.
Talk about a changing America.
Tubman, the abolitionist who freed hundreds of slaves, will replace Andrew Jackson, the slave-owning former president, at the center of a redesigned $20 bill. Jackson, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Wednesday, will be moved to the back of the bill, although the design probably won’t be released until 2020.
The $5 and $10 bills are getting overhauls, too. The back of the $10 bill, for example, will show the 1913 march for women’s suffrage, honoring Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth. The back of the $5 bill will show images from the 1939 March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
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By popular demand, Alexander Hamilton, the subject of the acclaimed rap musical “Hamilton,” will remain on the front of $10 bill, but with a redesign. (We like to celebrate Pulitzer Prize winners, so we’re OK with that.)
In one fell swoop, the Treasury Department has made a powerful statement about the role of women and minorities in a country that has changed dramatically since the current crop of “dead presidents” was released to the public in 1928.
No longer is the United States a place dominated entirely by white men. Like California, the nation is slowly, but ever so surely moving toward a population mix that is majority-minority.
In Hillary Clinton, we have a woman in the thick of the race for president. A woman serves as U.S. attorney general and another as U.S. treasurer. Three women sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. A woman even heads up the Federal Reserve.
And yet, men still earn far more of those dead presidents than women do, just like white Americans still earn a lot more than minorities do.
While leveling the playing field for earning currency certainly isn’t as easy as changing the way the currency looks, it’s still the right thing to do – even at a time when Americans are depending less and less on coins and paper bills.
It’s a testament to the ideals and diverse history of this country that, even with the cash in our pockets, we pay homage to freedom and equality, not oppression and racism.