Harriet Tubman’s Biggest $20 Bill Competition Could Be Andrew Jackson

Last month, Harriet Tubman triumphed over Eleanor Roosevelt by just a few hundred votes to become the winner of the the Women on $20s poll — a campaign that sought to select a woman to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

Only around 600,000 votes were cast, but the reality of Harriet replacing Andrew is already materializing. Earlier this week, Republican representative John Kathko of New York introduced legislation that, if passed, would put Tubman on a bill as soon as possible. Kathko told the Citizen that he’s already garnered the support of four other Republican representatives and three Democrats.

Kathko did not, however, stipulate that Harriet would be replacing Jackson on the $20 specifically, even if he seems to be the most likely candidate. Andrew’s modern reputation has been especially stained by the Trail of Tears, an event the Women on $20s described as “mass relocation of Indians [resulting] in the deaths of thousands from exposure, disease and starvation during the westward migration. Not okay.”

However, others argue that Jackson made significant contributions to the nation worthy of his place on our money. One such proponent of this argument is David Greenberg, a Rutgers University professor of history and media studies. In a Sunday column for Politico Magazine, the professor argued that despite Andrew’s questionable human rights record, Jackson contributed so fundamentally to the early American sense of equality that replacing him with Tubman would be an error.

“Andrew Jackson did more than any other president to turn the Founding Fathers’ genteel republic into a robust democracy… the example and spirit of his candidacy and presidency fueled the spread of universal manhood suffrage, which nearly every state adopted by the time he left office. To his discredit, Jackson couldn’t fathom the logic of extending democracy to include African-Americans (as Lincoln would), or to encompass women (as many generations of feminists would). Yet universal white manhood suffrage should be allowed its achievements as well as its deficiencies.”

Another one of Harriet’s biggest opponents for the bill isn’t Andrew, but Tubman herself. Multiple major publications printed editorials critical of Harriet’s $20 bill proposal, arguing that the social advocate’s legacy put her at odds with being placed on U.S. cash. Among them was Guardian columnist Steven W. Thrasher.

“Tubman wasn’t a sentimentalist, or an incrementalist. She was an abolitionist. Until they’re willing to talk reparations, leave the white guys on the money as a reminder that they created a national economy where men still get paid more than women and Tubman’s black and brown descendant daughters are hit the worst… Putting Tubman’s face on the $20 would only obfuscate how much exploitation there is still left to fight in America, among those in prison, nail salons – and those exchanging twenties daily who don’t even know it.”

Do you think Harriet Tubman should replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill?

[Image via Getty Images]