Editorial: Honoring Tubman

After months of rumor and speculation, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced last week that Andrew Jackson will no longer grace the front of the $20 bill and will be replaced by Harriet Tubman.

It’s an exemplary choice.

Ms. Tubman was an abolitionist who spied for the Union Army during the Civil War. She was born a slave in 1822 but escaped to freedom in 1849 and later helped dozens of other African-Americans do the same through the Underground Railroad. She spent her later years advocating for women’s rights before her death in 1913 in upstate New York.

She will be the first female on American paper money in more than a century and the first African-American ever.

The Treasury’s announcement culminates the department’s efforts to use American currency to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020. In addition to the $20 bill makeover which will place Ms. Tubman on the front and move Jackson to the back, Mr. Lew announced that both the $10 note and $5 note will be revamped on the back to honor the civil-rights movement and suffrage activists.

Other than cosmetic and coloring changes designed to foil counterfeiters, U.S. currency has remained largely unchanged since 1928. Andrew Jackson, our 7th president, had a nice run.

“The midnight sky and the silent stars have been the witnesses of your devotion to freedom and your heroism,” Frederick Douglass wrote to Harriet Tubman in 1868. “I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have.”

Harriet Tubman risked her life in pursuit of delivering the cherished concepts of liberty and freedom to the neglected, oppressed and dispossessed. She personifies the American ideals of courage, honor and self sacrifice and stands as an impeccable role model for affecting positive change through perseverance, commitment and enlightenment.

Mr. Lew and the Treasury couldn’t have made a more inspired selection.

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