Newswise — Ed Baptist, professor of history in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University and author of the book, “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” says replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is particularly significant because of his unbridled imperialism that impacted both African and Native Americans.
“In the years before slavery ended, Southern states were putting slaves toiling in the cotton fields on their paper money. At the same time Harriet Tubman was trying to help enslaved African Americans to free themselves.
“Although the country is covered with memorials to Confederates who committed treason, there is almost nothing to memorialize those whom Confederates fought to keep enslaved. The Harriet Tubman $20 bill will soon be the most commonly seen representation of those who survived, tried to resist, or fought back against enslavement.
“It is particularly significant that Tubman replaces Jackson. More than any single individual, he made it possible for slave owners to make a cotton South in the Mississippi Valley by expelling Native peoples and repopulating it with enslaved African Americans dragged in chains from states like Tubman’s native Maryland.
“This is a double victory for the ancestors of 2016’s African Americans and Native Americans alike. Both suffered from the kind of unbridled imperialism of Andrew Jackson. But at the same time, this is only a symbolic victory. The consequences of Andrew Jackson’s policies have not been repaired. The deeds committed by Jackson and his allies and followers are not only still shaping our world, in some ways, their impact has only grown through time.”
Riché Richardson is a professor in Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center. Richardson says the move to place Tubman on the $20 bill illustrates the power black women have had to help represent and define America.
“This move profoundly illustrates one of the major points of my book-in-progress, which focuses on how black women, over time, have impacted national femininity and emerged as national emblems and voices in our political culture, in ways that go well beyond familiar stereotypes such as Aunt Jemima.
“In a nation where Rosa Parks catalyzed change by remaining seated, Shirley Chisholm became the first woman to run for president, Condoleezza Rice became the most powerful woman in the world, and Michelle Obama became the nation’s first black First Lady, choosing Harriet Tubman as the new emblem for the $20 bill further illustrates the power that black women sometimes have had to help represent and define America.”
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