Students and faculty weigh in on Tubman’s placement on $20 bill

Nancy Huang

Students and faculty expressed mixed feelings regarding the Wednesday announcement that Harriet Tubman will be featured on the $20 bill.

Education associate professor Richard Reddick said in an email that the move is historic, but he regrets that former president Andrew Jackson will still be on the bill.

“I just regret that Jackson is still featured, given his genocidal efforts to slaughter Native Americans and his slave-holding past,” Reddick said. “I hope [Tubman’s] placement generates discussions on our nation’s history — who is valorized and who is omitted.”

Christle Nwora, humanities senior and member of Afrikan American Affairs, said the new design is a celebration of a great woman and an opportunity to learn more about her.

“I think there’s so much more to who Harriet Tubman was [than just abolitionism], and I think having her place on the $20 bill opens up the conversation around who she was as a figure,” Nwora said. “[We could be] talking about her the way we talk about Benjamin Franklin or the way we talk about Abraham Lincoln in our classrooms.”

Nwora said although she believes the change is a good idea, she also recognizes criticisms of the move. 

“I understand that there are critiques around having a woman who essentially died penniless on the $20 bill,” Nwora said. “There are people who are concerned about the portrayal of her legacy, but for me I think it’s an incredible accomplishment.”

Corey Toland, microbiology senior and Feminist Action Project member, said the main controversy is not that Tubman was a woman but that she was a black woman.

“A few months ago the Federal Reserve said that they were going to have a woman on the bill, and that sparked some controversy, but I think now that it’s going to be … a black woman and a former slave, I think that’s where we’re finding this new kind of backlash,” Toland said. “If it had been Lady Bird Johnson or Laura Bush on the $20 bill, we wouldn’t be hearing this rhetoric from the general population.”

Reddick said he is hopeful this decision is not the only one of its kind.

“Sacajawea was featured on the $1 coin, as was Susan B. Anthony,” Reddick said. “With any luck, more women, persons of color and otherwise overlooked Americans will be featured on our currency in the future.”