A conference staffer departs stop a visual help following a news conference about the redesigned $20 bill intended to honor Harriet Tubman, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., ~ above June 18, 2019.

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Brittney Cooper is a professor in ~ Rutgers University and also the writer of Eloquent Rage: A black Feminist Discovers she Superpower.
The Biden administration announced its plan to return to an Obama-era initiative to put Harriet Tubman’s confront on the U.S. $20 bill. Her photo would replace Andrew Jackson, the notoriously racism President, known both because that owning numerous slaves and also for his brutal and also genocidal policy of Indian removal. Based on current designs, a statue the Jackson would continue to be on the ago of the bill, while Harriet Tubman would certainly grace the front. Many Americans, across the gyeongju spectrum, room excited around this tribute come Tubman. They check out it together progress, as a necessary and also long overdue disruption of the American establishing Fathers narrative. I do not.


I recognize in a nation that worships at the altar the capitalism–an financial system made feasible by the free Black job procured v the Transatlantic slave trade–a black color woman’s confront on our currency seems like the greatest honor we can bestow. Yet what a stunning failure of imagination. Placing Tubman on legit tender, when slaves in the U.S. Were treated as fungible commodities is a supreme kind of disrespect. The imagery of she face an altering hands as human being exchange cash because that goods and also services evokes because that me discomfiting scenes of enslaved persons gift handed over together payment because that white debt or because that anything white slaveholders wanted. America absolutely owes a debt to black people, yet this is no the means to repay it.


On the heels the Kamala Harris’ historic ascension to the Vice-Presidency, questions about the politics of representation number heavily in our politics discussions and calculations. I think that depiction matters, that it matters for a woman (with liberal values) to be chairman someday, that black color people and also people of color should be in positions of leadership and decision-making in our government. Yet all develops of depiction are not equal, and also the desire to placed a black color woman’s challenge on our money represents a rigid of diversity and inclusion that is deeply ahistorical. The is the ignominious partnership of black color bodies to capital and also currency the is the reason today that our many violent battles in this country.

Consider that just weeks ago, an angry insurrectionist white crowd stormed the U.S. Capitol, carrying, amongst other items, the Confederate flag. American lore says that the Confederate flag had never previously entered the U.S. Capitol, even throughout the civil War. Ns say lore due to the fact that we all recognize that even if the price of the Confederacy had actually never been in the Capitol, Confederate principles have uncovered a hearty welcome there both in the past and also in the present. Due to the fact that this background has violently reinserted itself, demanding our attention, and also if we room wise, our reckoning through a racist past that is never ever quite past, then we should note, that black color people’s faces have, in fact, to be on our national money before. During the Confederacy, together each secessionist state printed its very own money, photos of enslaved human being picking cotton and doing other creates of menial labor appeared on the money in numerous states.


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Anti-slavery crusader Harriet Tubman is seen in a photo from the Library of congress taken by photographer H.B. Lindsley between 1860 and also 1870.

The default position in America is that black color bodies space only advantageous insofar as they revolve a profit. We dealt with a bloody battle over this issue. And also then the country turned around and built a jail system based on exactly the same premise, thus calls to abolish prisons, which depend in most instances on a huge amount of free Black job to turn a profit.

Harriet Tubman’s life was about fighting versus the device that treated black lives and also Black bodies together property, currency and also capital. She was a an excellent emancipator, releasing herself and hundreds of others and also helping to carry the Union forces to victory working together spy in southern Carolina during the polite War. Would she think about it an respect to have her likeness plastered ~ above American currency? and if she agreed come the honor, what would she ask for in return?

Nothing short, i am sure, of vast structural change together with specific and target systemic interventions to help Black women and also Black communities. A 2015 report placed single Black women’s average net wealth at $200; it inserted Black men’s average wealth in ~ $300. Practically a 4 minutes 1 of Black ladies live in poverty. And also we know that black women are disproportionately stood for as necessary workers. (Our Latina sisters regularly fare worse.)

If Tubman is going to be linked to conversations on capital, the conversation must be about a redistribution and funneling the resources and money into Black communities, to resolve wealth and also wage disparities, accessibility to education and safe housing, and a comprehensive plan of activity to redress the social factors of bad Black health. Anything rather is downright disrespectful. Maybe we need the Harriet Tubman Reparations plot or the Harriet Tubman Abolition the Prisons Act. What we don’t need is Harriet Tubman ~ above twenties.

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So many of the freedoms we all enjoy today space a direct an outcome of Tubman’s heroic efforts. But American money, and also our national romance v it, is the source of so many of our national evils. Too frequently America attempts come atone for racism v style and also symbol quite than substance. Us don’t require America to put Black women on that money. We need America to placed its money on black color women.