clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Harriet Tubman is unwelcomed on Donald Trump’s $20 bills

Last week, the Trump administration announced it will delay the release of a new $20 bill adorned by the famed abolitionist — until after Trump leaves office.   

This file photo shows an image provided by the “Women On 20’s” organization festuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Getty Images

Who’s on the $20 bill? You may need to reach for your wallet or Google to recall.

It’s a big thing for some, so big it has President Donald J. Trump descending to a new low.

Last week U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the Trump administration will delay the release of a new $20 bill adorned by the famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman — until after Trump leaves office.

OPINION

In April 2016, the Obama administration announced that Tubman would be the new face of the $20 bill, replacing former President Andrew Jackson.

The former slave would be the first black woman to be featured on U.S. currency. The new bill was to be released in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

Not now.

“It’s not a decision that is likely to come until way past my term, even if I serve the second term for the president,” Mnuchin told the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. “So, I’m not focused on that for the moment.”

The Tubman bills probably won’t emerge until 2028, he said.

Tubman was chosen from thousands of nominations. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the $20 bill would be redesigned, with Tubman’s image on the front, and Andrew Jackson’s on the back, “as quickly as possible.”

But President Obama’s time ran out, and Trump took over.

It’s so petty. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump said he opposed honoring Tubman on the 20, calling it “pure political correctness.”

Adding to insult, Trump had suggested Tubman’s visage could be added to the discontinued $2 bill.

Tubman, a prolific “conductor” on the famed Underground Railroad, was born a slave in Maryland in 1820. After years of hardship and physical abuse, she escaped to freed territory in Philadelphia.

Over a decade, she returned to the South on 19 perilous trips “and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom,” according to “Africans in America,” from PBS.org.

Courageous and strategic, Tubman would steal a slave master’s horse and buggy for the first leg of the trip. She spirited slaves out of town on Saturday night, before the notices of runaways could be posted in the Monday morning newspapers. She carried a gun to prevent her fellow fugitives from giving up or turning back. “You’ll be free or die,” she told them.

Tubman later helped the Union Army win the Civil War, working as a cook, nurse and “even a spy,” PBS reported.

President Andrew Jackson, meanwhile, owned dozens of slaves and oversaw the deportation of Native Americans from the Southeast, forcing them on a tortuous, deadly journey to the west, called the “trail of tears.”

Trump is an admiring fan. He arranged to have Jackson’s portrait installed in the Oval Office.

The American power establishment worships the almighty dollar. No one worships the dollar more than Trump.

He could not abide the idea of a heroic, universally admired black woman gracing his money.

Trump rose to power by denigrating, discounting and humiliating women, especially women of color.

It’s just one more way Trump is telegraphing to the racists and sexists in his base that “we” are never giving up this country. “We” will never give an inch to “those people.”

Harriet Tubman is one of legions of freedom fighters who made our country great.

There are not enough $20 bills in the universe to change that.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.