Harriet Tubman Women on 20s
Women on 20s
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on April 20 that Andrew Jackson will be replaced by Harriet Tubman on the $20 Federal Reserve Note.

Harriet Tubman to Replace Indian Killer and Slave Dealer Andrew Jackson on $20 Bill

Steve Russell

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced on April 20 that Indian fighter Andrew Jackson is about to get removed from the $20 Federal Reserve Note. Since Jackson was also a slave monger, he might spin in his grave on the news he is to be replaced by an ex-slave, Harriet Tubman, conductor on the Underground Railroad.

The only woman ever to appear on the face of a U.S. bill was Martha Washington, who graced a $1 silver certificate at the very end of the 19th century. Around the same time, the only Indian ever to make the front of a bill was on a $5 silver certificate. That would be the Hunkpapa leader Tȟatȟóka Íŋyaŋke (Running Antelope) who walked on only three years before he appeared on the money. There has never been a black person on U.S. paper money. 

RELATED: The Odds on Jackson Removal and a Native on Paper Money—Yes, It Happened

Women on 20s organized to get a woman on U.S. paper money to celebrate the centennial in 2020 of the 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women. They picked Jackson as their target in furtherance of another goal in their mission statement: “Removal of symbols of hate, intolerance and inequality…”

I learned something at that point that was highly gratifying. I know Cherokees who put 20s in their wallet in a manner that avoids looking at Jackson’s face. I know Cherokees who identify as Republicans because Jackson was a Democrat and are highly offended at Democrats having annual “Jefferson-Jackson dinners.” What I did not know is that Indians generally despise Jackson almost as much as Cherokees do.

Women on 20s set up an online poll to gauge public opinion—or at least activist opinion—on what woman should replace Jackson. Voting was to be in a primary round where any American woman no longer living was eligible. The top three would go to a final round. The result was a lively public discussion.

RELATED: Crowdsourcing Jackson Removal

In a masterstroke of public relations, they gave former Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller a bye into the final round in recognition of Jackson’s special infamy among Cherokees. 

RELATED: Dump Jackson From the $20; Replace him with a Mankiller

The winners of the final vote, in order, were Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Mankiller. Over 350,000 people had voted.  The organization dutifully started lobbying for Tubman.

RELATED: Eyes On Jackson Removal: Tubman Over Mankiller in Unofficial Vote

U.S. money leaves something to be desired from an aesthetic perspective, but it has also been a target of counterfeiters because it lacks state of the art tricks to foil them. After Women on 20s got rolling, the Treasury Department released a schedule for redesigning all U.S. bills to make them more secure from counterfeiters. The next bill up for a makeover was the 10.

RELATED: Getting Andrew Jackson off the $20 Just Got Harder

The women were not happy. Not only is the 10 a smaller denomination, there are a lot fewer 10s than 20s in circulation. Most ATM machines only cough up Jacksons.

A Marist poll asking what woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the 10 yielded 27 percent for Eleanor Roosevelt, 17 percent for Harriet Tubman, and 13 percent for Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman known for guiding the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The idea of removing Hamilton got shot down for unlikely reasons. It never made sense because Hamilton is the father of the U.S. banking system. Jackson, if asked what his principal accomplishment was, would probably glide past Indian removal and cite killing the reauthorization of the national bank. In addition, Jackson did not believe in paper money—he was a diehard supporter of the gold standard.

Mere history was not enough to save Hamilton. What did the job was the hit musical currently playing on Broadway, Hamilton. The musical genre represented in Hamilton is hip-hop, but that has not slowed down critical kudos for the production.  The soundtrack album won a Grammy and the playwright, Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Hamilton got 14 Drama Desk nominations and won eight, including Outstanding Musical.

Lin-Manuel Miranda is credited with the push for historical common sense that spared Hamilton. Jackson is now on the chopping block, as he should have been in the first place. In addition to his Indian fighting, Jackson was a slave monger, and his methods were barbaric even in the context of his times. This makes his replacement by an ex-slave a bit of rough justice.

Women on 20s, while supporting the demise of Jackson and the elevation of Tubman, remain focused on getting a woman on the currency in time for the centennial of the 19th Amendment, something the current schedule will not accomplish. Therefore, their lobbying continues.

Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker, released a statement reacting to the decision to replace Jackson with Tubman:

Andrew Jackson defied a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and forced the removal of our Cherokee ancestors from homelands we’d occupied in the Southeast for millennia. His actions as president resulted in a genocide of Native Americans and the death of about a quarter of our people. It remains the darkest period in the Cherokee Nation’s history. Jackson’s legacy was never one to be celebrated, and his image on our currency is a constant reminder of his crimes against Natives…

The Cherokee Nation applauds the work… to replace his image with the image of Harriet Tubman, whose legacy represents values everyone can be proud of.

Now, if they can just get rid of Jackson by 2020…

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turbojesus's picture
Submitted by turbojesus on
In New Orleans, there's a statue of Andrew Jackson, Jackson square. There's a monument to killing of the cheyenne by the buffalo soldiers. There are countless monuments to southern slave mongers like robert e lee, lee circle. Are those monuments bad? I don't know we have a metaphor for the Gilded Age. A time when the black steel of social wrong was covered with a thin layer of gold which has now been revealed. When I saw the jackson statue, I usually think of Works and Days where he describes the ages of man. The bronze race and everything about them was bronze: their hearts, their armaments, their houses. They loved violence and eventually destroyed each other.

turbojesus's picture
Submitted by turbojesus on
Well his face is just going to be on the opposite side. I don't really see how this is better. It's just keeping with this black-white motif we see everywhere on our chalkboards, on the typewriter and computer, in stars, star wars, et cetera. We should start using red print on everything like the Cherokee bible.