The richness of American diversity and the multifaceted contributions to American democracy is making an appearance on American currency. Harriet Tubman’s image on the American $20 bill represents a recognition of the role people of color and women played in making the United States of American a beacon of hope for the world. Tubman is known primarily as an abolitionist, fighting against slavery, and as the matriarch of the Underground Railroad, navigating the route to freedom for persons bold enough to escape from slavery. She was also an indispensable part of the military efforts of the Union Army. Tubman served the Union Army as a cook, a nurse, a scout, and a resourceful spy who risked her life moving through the south gathering intelligence which aided the union cause. Tubman represents the depth of American liberty. About liberty she stated, “I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.” It was most appropriate that when she died Harriet Tubman was buried with military honors. She was a solider for the cause of the Union of the United States. She was also a solider for justice, for women’s rights, for the rights of all persons to enjoy the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I am particularly pleased that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who I had the honor of meeting when he served as Deputy Secretary of State and I served as U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, has taken the bold step in recognizing Harriet Tubman’s contribution to American democracy by placing her image on one of our nation’s most widely used pieces of currency. As Executive Vice President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the home of the Harriet Tubman Theatre, I am hopeful that the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be one of the places for a public unveiling of the currency and a public discussion of contributions to American democracy made by Harriet Tubman.
Dr. Michael A. Battle, Executive Vice President/Provost of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center