Conservatives should be delighted that Harriet Tubman’s likeness will grace the $20 bill. She was a Republican, after all, and a pious Christian. And she routinely exercised her Second Amendment right to carry a gun, which she was ready to use against anyone who stood in her way.
Instead, we’ve had mostly silence from the right.
Donald Trump and Ben Carson both suggested that Tubman instead be put on the $2 bill, which nobody uses. That would be a great recipe for tokenism. I’m glad that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew made a bolder and more meaningful choice.
It matters who’s on the money. Since the ancient Greeks began stamping coins with images of their gods, nations have used currency to define a pantheon of heroes. Tubman was a great hero not because of who she was but what she did: bravely fight to expand the Constitution’s promise of freedom and justice to all Americans.
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Critics who polluted social media with invective following Lew’s announcement seemed to look past Tubman’s deeds and focus on her identity. Yes, she was a black woman. If anyone can’t deal with that fact, and doesn’t want to use the new bills when they finally come out, feel free to send them to me.
Tubman was born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore around 1822. She escaped to Philadelphia in 1849, but returned to the South more than a dozen times, risking life and liberty, to lead runaway slaves to freedom.
But that was just the beginning of Tubman’s heroic service. During the Civil War, she guided a team of Union scouts operating in the marshlands near present-day Beaufort, South Carolina. In 1863, she led a raid on plantations along the Combahee River that freed more than 750 slaves.
Later, she worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and others in the crusade for women’s suffrage. She died in 1913, frail yet still unbowed, having lived one of the greatest of American lives.
Is it political correctness or historical revisionism to put her defiant likeness in our pockets? Of course – and high time, too.
By definition, the study of history requires interpretation and assessment. The many vital contributions made by black people, women and other “outsiders” were long overlooked or undervalued. We are now able to see Tubman through a sharper lens, and she was magnificent.
Email Robinson at eugenerobinson@