Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Brings Praise And Complaints

Susan Macdonald

Harriet Tubman will be replacing President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. This announcement has brought praise from Americans who think women other than Sacajawea and Susan B. Anthony deserve representation on American currency. However, it has also brought a surprising amount of complaints and downright hatred.


The New York Times reported that Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad, will be replacing Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill. President Jackson will be relegated to the back of the $20 bill. Feminists, African Americans, and American citizens who recognize and value the diversity of American heritage praised the decision by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.

Harriet Tubman was a national heroine. As the Underground Railroad conductor nicknamed Moses, she led scores of slaves to freedom before the Civil War. During the Civil War, she worked as a scout and a nurse for the Union forces. She led the raid on plantations on the Combahee River, freeing over 700 slaves. After the Civil War, she became involved in the suffragette movement as well as working for better conditions for freed slaves.


Winning Democrats reported that two Donald Trump groups on Facebook, The Trump Party and Make America Great Again, were filled with complaints and racist comments about Tubman being selected for the $20 bill. The privacy settings have been changed on those Facebook pages, and they are no longer public.

Several of these comments on Facebook and Twitter displayed a horrifying lack of awareness of American history as well as English spelling and punctuation. Others complained that Harriet Tubman was ugly or that she was a thief when she helped slaves escape. Several confessed that they had never heard of her. More than one commented that only presidents should be on paper money, ignoring the fact that the $10 bill has Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the treasury, the $100 bill has author and scientist Ben Franklin, and the rare $10,000 dollar bill shows Salmon P. Chase, a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. None of these three were ever president.

Although more white people are on food stamps than African Americans (nearly double, according to SNAP's official website), several people suggested her picture would be more appropriate on food stamps than on the $20 bill.


Other people complained that it was inappropriate to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill because other people deserved the honor more: Eleanor Roosevelt, Wilma Mankiller, Frederick Douglass, Mercy Warren, Anne Hutchinson, or others. Some people, as quoted by the Guardian, think having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill insults her legacy.

"I don't want to see the abolitionist commodified with a price, as she once was as a slave."

An editorial in the Washington Post concurred that putting Harriet Tubman's picture on the $20 bill undermines and insults her legacy.

"By escaping slavery and helping many others do the same, Tubman became historic for essentially stealing 'property.' Her legacy is rooted in resisting the foundation of American capitalism. Tubman didn't respect America's economic system, so making her a symbol of it would be insulting."

[Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]