Editorial: From Tubman to Frances Perkins (someday), we get our money’s worth

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With his signature, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has put front and center a name we all heard in grade school (back when it was called grade school).

Harriet Tubman — humble ex-slave and brave helper to the vulnerable — will, some years from now, take over Andrew Jackson’s spot on the twenty-dollar bill. The nation’s seventh president, who in keeping with his period and station was a slaveowner, will bow out to the back of the bill.

Harriet Tubman in 1895

Wikimedia Commons

Harriet Tubman in 1895

We greeted the announcement last week with wonder and appreciation. Here was something different coming out of the halls of Washington, where it seems today everything’s an argument and the long view gets short shrift. And certainly, here was something different coming onto our currency.

Joining the greats on our bills and coins — George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others — will be an illiterate black woman in undistinguished clothes and countenance, who was also great.

Welcoming Harriet Tubman into the fold is a breathtaking indication of a nation coming closer to the ideal it wants for itself: a country that highly values freedom, individuality, work and human dignity.


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