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Andrew Jackson has appeared on the $20 bill for the last 90 years.

Kick Andrew Jackson Off the $20 Bill!

Jillian Keenan
3/7/14

Of course, contemporary Native American communities have much bigger problems than whose face is on a bill. The Pima Indians in Arizona have the highest rate of diabetes in the world. A Native American woman has a 1-in-3 chance of being raped during her lifetime—more than twice the national average. There’s an epidemic of suicide among Native American teenagers and youth. Rates of unemployment in Native American communities are disproportionately high—not surprising, since inferior reservation lands are often unsuitable for farming and a lack of infrastructure makes it difficult for other businesses to succeed. Dropout rates at reservation schools are among the highest in the country. There’s a housing shortage on tribal lands. Native American areas have been disproportionately used as radioactive waste dumps. Jackson’s visage on the $20 doesn’t compare.

But this issue isn’t merely cosmetic, or a nod to political correctness. Symbolic change and practical change have a symbiotic relationship. By confronting and correcting the symbols of our violent and racist histories, we prompt conversations about how that legacy continues to affect marginalized communities today.

This wouldn’t be the first campaign to change a face on our currency. In 2010, H.R. 4705 called for Ronald Reagan to replace Ulysses S. Grant on the $50 bill, and in 2003 the “Ronald Reagan Dime Act” tried to bump Franklin Delano Roosevelt off the dime. (Amazingly, those weren’t the only recent legislative attempts to put Reagan on money. There were at least two others.) If our government wants to spend time arguing about who should be represented on dollars and coins, it can start by booting off the man who championed a genocide.

No historical figure is perfect, but we don’t need perfection. In fact, it’s a low bar to clear: We just need someone better than Andrew Jackson.

Given that Jackson’s image has been on the $20 for nearly 90 years, it might be appropriate to celebrate his opposite. Frederick Douglass is a prime candidate, both for his work as an abolitionist and for his campaigns on behalf of Native Americans, women, and immigrants. Osceola, a Seminole Native American, led a war of resistance against his people’s forced removal from Florida. Davy Crockett risked his political career to fight against the Indian Removal Act. Ralph Waldo Emerson would also deserve the honor, both for his timeless writing and for his eloquent arguments against Jackson’s policies.

Personally, my vote goes to Harriet Tubman. If Jackson’s humble origins inspire people, you can’t start much lower than Tubman, who was born into slavery. Although Tubman escaped to Philadelphia, she bravely risked her life to return to the South and help more than 300 enslaved people escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War, she served our country as a nurse, armed scout, and spy for the Union Army, and wrapped up her heroic life by campaigning with Susan B. Anthony for women’s right to vote. It doesn’t get more inspirational than that.

Andrew Jackson’s legacy opened the door for Americans from all economic backgrounds to participate in politics. For that, he deserves our thanks. But let’s not whitewash Jacksonian democracy. Let’s elevate a more honorable American instead.

This piece originally appeared at Slate.com on March 3.

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Troy Hendrickson
Troy Hendrickson
Submitted by Troy Hendrickson on
Jesus said render unto Caesar. I have given up all hope that this country will ever repent of it's sins, nor atone for them. Let them have their money, your peoples survival ultimately depends on rejecting all which the white men offer.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
So, who would be better? Every single President on Mt. Rushmore is guilty of the same thing (although perhaps to a lesser degree than Jackson). Why does it even have to be a President? Why not Geronimo, or Crazy Horse, or Chief Joseph? Why not George Washington Carver? Why not Anne Hutchinson or Joy Harjo for that matter? Why must we continue to idolize rich, White men in a country that is supposedly a melting pot?

bullbear's picture
bullbear
Submitted by bullbear on
In my opinion, no human image should be affixed to the U.S. dollar bills or coins. Not even U.S. government buildings should be no there such as the Lincoln or Washington memorial. The government was on the right track with placing the eagle and buffalo on them. There are plenty of different birds, fish and four-legged animals to choose from. Who knows? Maybe people would have greater regard for them and their well-being. BTW/ when are we going to do away with the penny that costs more to produce than its value?

CHarris360's picture
CHarris360
Submitted by CHarris360 on
Here's an image of my suggestion for a new $20 bill. I think it is beautiful! And honoring someone who really deserves it! Tatanka-Iyotanka, AKA Sitting Bull! http://www.flickr.com/photos/rancier/13067485864/

newworldman's picture
newworldman
Submitted by newworldman on
Forget any changes in this Euro-society. A political talking head on a recent Charlie Rose show made the comment that, besides the Native-American thing, he considered Andrew Jackson to have been the best president in history..."but," he added, "considering what he did to the Native Americans, that's like saying, 'but besides that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?'" These people do not care what Jackson did to the Native Americans. The wealth that they themselves have today is due directly to the theft of the land and resources from the Native Americans which was orchestrated by sociopathic monsters like Jackson. As was demonstrated by the debate of the Don Juan Onate sculpture in San Antonio, the Euro-Americans are all too willing to overlook the genocidal tendencies of their Eur-American "heroes" while venerating them. They are hopeless. Delusional and hopeless.

pidlezen's picture
pidlezen
Submitted by pidlezen on
better kick Jefferson off too... and Lincoln, and... Under Jefferson, more Indian removal treaties were signed than under Jackson. To paint Jackson this way is too 1 dimensional. He also haD Indian allies (Creeks) IN THE Indian wars AND EVEN TOOK AN ORPHAN Creek BOY TO LIVE AT HIS HOME, THE hERMITAGE. I've read his presidential letters.....If you want to remove presidents from money for mistreatment... got a lot of them to erase the REAL story is a lot more complex, including Cherokees who sold out their own tribe.... and even with notice, the many, many who refused to prepare to leave. The removal was terribly wrong, but this articles simplified telling of it does not tell the story

Rick Kendale
Rick Kendale
Submitted by Rick Kendale on
If Jackson should come off the twenty dollar bill, Lincoln (5 dollar bill and the penny) should be taken off as well. Lincoln, who committed genocide, killing not only troops but 64,000 women and children ordering their disposal. Plus calling the slaves property and all property must be destroyed as he ordered during the closing of the war between the states. Grant (50 dollar bill) was caught red handed in trying to artificially to raise gold prices, the scandal known as Black Friday. Then got by with that and tried to sell of the US postal service in a make me rich money scam. McKinley (500 dollar bill) murdered 220,000 Filipinos in a pure slaughter. Cleveland (1000 dollar bill) committed a violent sexual assault with the use of force that resulted in the birth of Cleveland's illegitimate child.
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