Andrew Jackson, the slave-owning seventh president of the United States who signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830, is coming off the $20 bill.
It’s about time.
In his place, the Biden administration has announced, will be Harriet Tubman, the Black woman who was born into slavery, escaped and made 13 missions to rescue others through the Underground Railroad.
Just in time for Black History Month, the Biden administration has resumed progress — suspended suspiciously during the Trump presidency because of never fully explained counterfeiting concerns — for redesigning the $20 bill.
“It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country,” said Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki. We agree.
Tubman is the first woman and the first person of color on U.S. currency. It only took a little more than 240 years.
Given Jackson’s role in the ethnic cleansing of the Trail of Tears, we would have liked to see an American Indian hero — possibly Oklahoma’s own Wilma Mankiller — take his place, but Tubman is an excellent choice, too. Her courage and leadership are a model of self-determination.
She was a Union spy during the Civil War, recruited ex-slaves for a Union regiment, and led an assault that freed 700 more. In her late 70s she delivered speeches for women’s suffrage, but died seven years before women won the right to vote.
Removing Jackson from the $20 bill isn’t rewriting history. It’s reordering who we choose to honor from history, which is the right of every generation.
Symbolic? Certainly. And such symbols are important, a signal to little girls that the pantheon of American heroes is not a boys club anymore.
Putting Tubman on the $20 bill is an appropriate honor for a genuine American hero. It’s also a timely recognition that American history isn’t just the story of white men.