When news broke this morning of civil rights icon Harriet Tubman replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill I got a lot of angry emails from SAB readers.
Stuff along the lines of this being “political correctness run amok” etc., etc.
I don’t understand the criticism.
I like the change.
Andrew Jackson, like most historical figures, is something of a mixed bag. A complex person. “He was the first president who wasn’t a plantation owner from Virginia or a guy named Adams from Massachusetts, but then there was the Trail of Tears thing,” a friend told me via text message this morning.
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]…who ever said that someone like Jackson had to be on our currency forever and ever, and that picking someone new was aspersion cast at his legacy?[/mks_pullquote]
Jackson was a fierce opponent of the Federal Reserve, which endears him to a certain demographic of fiscal libertarian (which makes his presence on a Federal Reserve Note an irony that is not appreciated nearly enough). He was also the founder of the modern Democratic party, and perhaps the originator of American populism, at least in national politics (his was the first election where the popular vote was counted). Some people like that sort of thing, I suppose.
To Native Americans he was an enemy, from his military career fighting the Seminole and Creek Indians in the south to his support for Indian removal policies as President.
So there are parts to like, and parts to dislike, but who ever said that someone like Jackson had to be on our currency forever and ever, and that picking someone new was aspersion cast at his legacy?
For me the case for replacing Jackson is less about Jackson than it is about finding someone new to honor. And Harriet Tubman, an early civil rights activist (who also fought for women’s suffrage), seems like a great candidate.
It’s too bad that something like this must become a part of the endless struggle between right and left politics in America. We get so myopic about history. People of all political persuasions want their favored version given prominence and no other.
Andrew Jackson was an important part of America’s history. So was Harriet Tubman.
Jackson has been on the $20 bill since 1928. After about 88 years, I think it’s ok to put someone new on the bill.