“I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger” – Harriet Tubman
The image of Harriet Tubman that is expected to be featured on the $20 bill has hit a colossal snag: The Trump administration.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is not endorsing the Obama administration-sanctioned plan to replace President Andrew Jackson with Black abolitionist Tubman on the $20 bill in 2020.
“People have been on the bills for a long period of time,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “This is something we’ll consider. Right now we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”
Mnuchin is not convinced that Tubman deserves the recognition. In fact, the Trump administration is blocking or reversing most of President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda – an agenda that benefits African-Americans and other people of color.
The Trump administration doesn’t seem to value the achievements of Black Americans to this republic, so it’s not surprising that Mnuchin said he was more concerned about preventing counterfeit currency instead of giving Tubman the respect she deserves.
“So the issues of what we change will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes,”Mnuchin said. “I’ve received classified briefings on that. And that’s what I’m focused on for the most part.”
It’s a weak argument and Mnuchin, like Trump, is terribly misguided – and racially tone-deaf. Tubman is a national treasure who deserves the proper recognition. But Mnuchin is just following the party line. Here’s what Trump said about Tubman is 2016.
“I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination,” Trump said.
And to insult Tubman’s legacy even more, Trump talked of placing Tubman’s image on the $2 bill – which circulates the smallest number of bills of all U.S. currency.
“I think it would be more appropriate,” Trump said.
Trump is indifferent to Tubman but considers Andrew Jackson, who founded the American banking system as we know it, as a hero. He celebrated Jackson’s 250th birthday in Tennessee and he toured The Hermitage, where more than 100 enslaved Africans were forced to work on Jackson’s plantation.
The president chose to celebrate Jackson, a slave owner, but dismisses Tubman, who helped lead enslaved African men and women to freedom.
Former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in 2016 that Tubman would replace Jackson on the $20 bill. This would make Tubman the first woman in more than a century — and the first African-American woman — to appear on U.S. paper currency.
So much for that.
I spoke with Tubman’s family members in Cambridge, Maryland last year and they were excited about the possibility of Tubman appearing on the $20 bill.
“Our family has always pushed to get Harriet Tubman more recognition,” said Manokey, 45, who was born in Dorchester County, where Tubman became a famous abolitionist. “The Moses of Her People” helped more than 70 families and friends escape slavery through her Underground Railroad.
“Harriet Tubman led Black people to freedom, but she was also a spy for the Union Army, a nurse, a cook and a scout,” Manokey said.
“She is an important part of history,” said Manokey. “And she is important to me as a member of my family.”
Manokey pointed to a walkway on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a 125-mile driving tour across Dorchester and Caroline counties in Maryland, dotted with 35 African-American historical sites.
Maybe Mnuchin, who has a closed mind when it comes to Tubman, should take the drive along the route of the Underground Railroad.
He might even learn something.
What do you think?
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