Harriet Tubman was to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill in 2020 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the 19th amendment, allowing women to vote. The initiative was tabled by the Drumpf administration until 2026, insuring he would be out of office when the issue resurfaced. Andrew Jackson has been an unsavory character in American history, to say the least, uprooting thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands, many of whom died upon removal due to starvation and disease. In comparison, Tubman was an advocate for the disenfranchised, helping over 300 people escape slavery and start new lives in places like Philadelphia and Canada. She was also a spy and armed scout for the Union Army during the Civil War, and a fervent advocate for the Women’s Suffrage Movement around the turn of the century. 

The contrast in legacy left by these two notorious American figures could not be more fundamentally different. Andrew Jackson in many ways exemplifies the prominent white Patriarchal hand that has guided America, and in many ways the world as a whole, to these divided, divisive cross-roads in which we find women and minorities fighting to be represented and heard. Tubman, on the other hand, is a beacon of inclusivity and justice for all, an American icon deserving her portrait enshrined on our currency. 

It feels right to advocate for a woman that has advocated for so many. In a way, fighting for Harriet Tubman’s rightful place on the $20 bill is symbolic of the current struggle minority women face when not taken seriously. It’s harder for black women to find jobs, to receive adequate care from their doctors, to buy a home…and the list goes on. Speaking up and standing by my minority sisters is the absolute least I can do to help wage war against the status quo. Harriet Tubman was not only a woman, she was a black woman who made change and used her resourses to help others in similar circumstances. 

When a government fails its people, civil disobedience is a necessary evil. I aim to create awareness about this issue and many more by using my artwork as a catalyst to share information and ideas. Stamping $20 bills with a hand-drawn portrait of Harriet Tubman has created a lot of interest around the issue. Every time I pay with a stamped $20 bill, the recipient is giddy with questions and support. I am confident that stamping her portrait on our outdated currency will be the impetus needed to garner support for the change and create awareness for the larger issue at hand.

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© Dena Cooper 2018