Stanley Heller
Cancelled Andrew Jackson stamps at a Yale University Art Gallery program.

Andrew Jackson Cancelled and How History Books Fail

Stanley Heller

While going to a program at the Yale University Art Gallery auditorium I came across a wall full of pictures of cancelled Andrew Jackson stamps. They had been blown up to five or six inches square, but a few were around a foot square. They were very heavily cancelled. Ha, I thought, a political statement about “Old Hickory”.

But I was wrong. The artist had come across a collection of a student’s stamps and was fascinated with the variety of cancellation marks. At least that was what I was told at the information desk.

I prefer my fantasy, that Yale was featuring an exhibit showing disrespect for Andrew Jackson—slaveholder, imperialist, constitution defiler, Indian killer and seventh U.S. president. That would be the perfect kick off to a campaign to get Jackson’s face off the $20 bill. Who should replace him? Sequoia, Geronimo, Sitting Bull, Tecumseh? We could start with a petition campaign …

That should happen, but that’s a long-term project. In the short run why not concentrate on how he is presented in U.S. school textbooks? I’m a semi-retired middle school teacher and I’ve got a copy of the 8th grade book The Story of the American Nation (James West Davidson – Michael B. Stoff, 2005) that is used in my old school.

In terms of Indian nations, the book starts off talking about Jackson by saying “He also defeated the Creek Indians and forced them to give up vast amounts of land in Georgia and Alabama.” Later it says about the Creeks, “After defeating them in battle during the War of 1812, Jackson threatened to kill their leaders if they did not give up land guaranteed them by earlier treaties.” Kind of negative, but really very sanitized. As Amargi wrote, “Jackson recommended that troops systematically kill Indian women and children after massacres in order to complete the extermination.”


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