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Harriet Tubman’s Twenty Dollar Bill

In response to appeals to have a woman’s face grace American currency, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has decided that historical abolitionist, Harriet Tubman, will be the face of the new $20 bill.

The debate had been whether to replace Andrew Hamilton on the $10 bill or Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. As Hamilton’s recognition and popularity grew with the contemporary public the pressure to leave him on the $10 bill grew and the decision has been made to replace Jackson. Which is apropos seeing as how Jackson was a known slave owner. However, the debate makes known some unspoken truths.

Currency Changes

President Lincoln will remain on the front of the $5 bill, but the image of the Lincoln Memorial on the back will be redesigned to depict historic events that happened there: Opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert and Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.

harriet-tubman-03The back of the $10 bill will tell the story of the women’s suffrage movement, which culminated in the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote in 1920. Among the women to be honored on the back of that bill: Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul.

To make room for Tubman on the front of the $20 bill, Jackson will be moved to the back where he’ll be incorporated into the existing image of the White House. Lew said that image could depict the statue of Jackson riding horseback in Lafayette Square across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

The Problem

While these changes allow for some additions to the recognition of slavery to American history – something that is often omitted or under-discussed when the subject presents itself. These changes acknowledge that slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and other racial issues do exist in America. However, the unwillingness to completely denounce certain representations of the sentiments of that time past suggest that these changes are more political than philosophical.

There is historical trend of America pacifying it’s oppressed with impotent gestures that pacify rather than rectify the thirst for revolution. Symbols of a period of American history that is so ghastly and shameful should be completely removed in favor of forging a new future. Certainly no one can change the past and I would dare suggest forgetting those moments; however, to parade them in apathy to what they stand for is thoughtless at its least and egregious at its worst. So while there is something to be said for the placement of the great Lady Moses it by no means demonstrates a monumental shift in public opinion or treatment of Black people.

I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,

An Angry Black Man

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