The solution: Keep Hamilton on the $10; put Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20; and move Jackson to the back of that bill.
Tubman figures heavily in Professor Foner’s recent book about the abolitionist movement, “Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.”
“I approve of this,” Foner told me today. “Andrew Jackson was a slave owner. Harriet Tubman was an extremely remarkable person who showed tremendous courage and resourcefulness, liberating 70 or 80 people under very difficult circumstances.”
Foner stressed that honoring Tubman on the $20 bill actually represents a tremendous bumping up of her visibility, in the sense that now “every single person in the country will be carrying around Harriet Tubman in his or her wallet.”
But, Foner added, this also goes to the core of a broader debate: what is the best way to publicly acknowledge all of the facets of our history?
“The context is the ongoing debate over how history should be represented in public,” Foner said. “I approve of this. I think the best way to deal with it is to add, not necessarily subtract. The public recognition of history should represent the actual history. Including Harriet Tubman is more representative of the history of the United States.”
“In the south, I don’t think they should take down statues of Confederate leaders,” Foner continued. “They should put up statues of black congressmen and senators. It makes the public history more accurately reflect our entire history.”
Now the $20 bill literally represents two sides of our history — slave ownership and abolitionism.
“Until now the recognition has been one sided,” Foner concluded. “Now you have a bill which reflects both sides of a very important moment in American history.”