By Adam Schalke
Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist who brought countless slaves to freedom in the Underground Railroad, is being honored by being featured on the twenty dollar bill alongside America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.
Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew announced the change in April. Tubman will be the first African-American woman to be featured on U.S. currency. The first non-white woman to appear on currency was Sacagawea, who first appeared on her own dollar coin back in 2000.
Tubman will appear on the front side of the bill while Jackson will appear on the back. Jackson’s placement on the back of the bill comes at a time when his legacy is being critically analyzed by historical scholars. Critiques of Jackson’s legacy include his bitter sense of partisanship, dismantling of the national bank, his use of the patronage-based spoils system and his removal of First Americans from their homes in the Southeast to Oklahoma, informally known as the “Trail of Tears” due to the amount of lives lost on the journey.
Some notable conservatives were quick to denounce the change. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has condemned the act. The New York Post claims that Trump thought the change was a result of “pure political correctness,” and argued that while Tubman should be featured on currency, she should do so at the expense of Jackson.
Former Republican primary candidate Ben Carson also was critical of Tubman being on the twenty dollar bill, with Salon reportedly citing him as calling the change “nothing short of a national disgrace” on behalf of the Obama Administration. However, the change was called for by the Secretary of the Treasury, not the President.
Many at Roosevelt, however, were happy about the change.
“I think it’s an excellent thing when our currency matches the diversity of America,” said women and gender studies professor Marjorie Jolles. “There’s more to America’s history than white men and white presidents, so I definitely welcome the decision to change some of our currency to reflect that history.”
“I was pretty happy when I heard about Harriet Tubman being on the twenty dollar bill,” said Linda Teyeson, a psychology student at Roosevelt. “As a woman of color, I was definitely glad that it was happening, but I wasn’t really overwhelmed by the change either. It was just one of those ‘oh, that’s really cool’ type of things.”
The newly decorated bills are set to be released in 2020.