The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday October 20th

Q&A with Glenn Hinson about Harriet Tubman's move to the $20 bill

The Federal Treasury announced last week abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be the first woman featured on American currency in more than a century. Though former President Andrew Jackson’s image will be moved to the back side of the $20 bill, former President Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton will keep their respective placements on the front of the $5 and $10 bills.

Staff Writer Yoon Ju Chung spoke with Glenn Hinson, a UNC professor in the departments of American studies and anthropology, about Tubman’s move to the front of the $20 bill and the next steps for the Federal Treasury.

The Daily Tar Heel: What is Tubman’s historical importance?

Glenn Hinson: Tubman is important within a number of areas. The first thing is simply that as an enslaved person, she not only escaped slavery but became a conductor of the Underground Railroad leading so many others to freedom.

Symbolically, she has always served in African-American community as a representative of the achievement of freedom. Also, just the idea that she has been nicknamed during her life, “Moses,” is pretty compelling.

DTH: What is the significance of removing Jackson from the front side of the bill?

GH: Jackson was always something of a contested figure. Jackson was a slaveholder and during his presidency, he oversaw the removal in the South of many First Nations people.

It was during his presidency that the Trail of Tears, for example, happened and that forced removal, which was really a kind of ethnic cleansing of the southern region, remains a lot in the history of America...

And then if you compare that with the severe liberation struggle, it makes great sense to move him to the back of the bill. I think a lot of people would rather see him removed altogether from the bill.

DTH: How have people received it?

GH: There are many people who are saying ‘but, but, but, but, but’ without recognizing the importance of this move in terms of the statement about human rights and civil rights.

It’s true that it was a surprise decision that Hamilton remained on the $10 bill, largely because of the current moment of popularity because of that musical on Broadway. At the same time, it was the $10 bill that the Treasury had said they were considering the replacement.

Actually in my mind, the fact that they chose to replace the $20 bill — it’s far more significant. That’s the bill that has much higher profile, and so to make that shift is to make a much more dramatic statement.

Also the plans of the $10 bill are to place folks on the back of the bill, so you have a whole series of women on the back of the bill now. It’s not what I had preferred, but it is the movement on the right direction. Rather than joining that argument, it is important to celebrate what’s happening in the 20. Let the 10 be next.

DTH: Where would you like to see representation on bills move in the future?

GH: The fact that all the bills have been historically male, that all have been white male political leaders from the elite classes who have had political power, is a misrepresentation of American history. Perhaps the next step is to move toward the First Nations’ portrayal.

state@dailytarheel.com


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