The faces on U.S. Currency reflect the history of the United States and its values through the eyes of white men. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton are among those on the currency to honor their contributions and roles in creating and leading America. All through history, the currency or bank notes conveyed a message of their pride, loyalty, patriotism, values and aspirations.

The $20 bill has been in use since the late 18th century and has featured Andrew Jackson’s face since 1928. How ironic that a president who opposed the national bank and the use of paper money be on the face of currency.

Andrew Jackson was born of Scottish descent in 1767 on the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. He was the seventh president and served two terms, from 1829 to 1837. He was a military officer and presented himself as champion of the “common man.” He ushered in the expansion of the American West and led the formation of the Democratic Party, which then espoused principles far different from the modern Democratic Party.

Jackson led the racist and genocidal removal of Indigenous people from their ancestral homelands. These were lands they lived on and protected for thousands of years before Europeans reached their shores and stole them. When Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act of 1830, it forced more than 60,000 Indigenous people to regions west of the Mississippi and north of the Great Lakes.

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Are these the kinds of actions Americans want to value and honor in the 21st century? The vast majority subscribe to general ideals of liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity and diversity.

In her 2014 letter to President Barack Obama, an 11-year-old from Massachusetts asked why “there were no women on money.” She wrote that “if there were no women, there would be no men.” She listed historic and notable figures such as Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Michelle Obama, Abigail Adams and Hillary Clinton as candidates. Upon Obama’s advice, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew called the young letter writer and told her that Harriet Tubman would be on the $20 bill.

The contributions of African Americans, Indigenous people and women must no longer be undervalued and ignored. If the images on our currency represent who and what we are and value now, then the face on our most circulated and recognizable bill must change.

The first paper currency face change to Harriet Tubman, promised in 2020 and now proposed for 2030 (that date may change again depending on the next president), is absolutely the right image for the 21st century.

She was born enslaved in 1822 and fought for liberty and equality until her death in 1913. Tubman’s bravery was underestimated as she risked her life countless times to liberate many and remained steadfast to building a political system that ceded women and people of color the same rights as white men.

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My ancestors’ contributions to the ideals of America are unmatched. For 400 years and counting, our contributions, through our skill, toil, faith, music, folklore, creativity, hope and pain birthed this country and its future advances. The resistance to the debilitating institutionalized system of slavery created a culture supportive of human dignity, which has had profound effects on all aspects of American life.

That culture supportive of human dignity bore Harriet Tubman, a prideful woman on a mission to free a people. This prideful woman fought in the Civil War against slavery, racism and the Confederacy. She’s the same prideful woman who assumed the charge for women’s right to vote. She housed, fed and cared for the homeless and aged.

Let us remember her courage, love, faith, perseverance, tenacity and commitment. If our currency is a symbol of our greatness and values — not our failures and division — Harriet Tubman is the right choice. This heroic woman represents 21st century ideals and she is the face of what the country must represent now.

Find Harriet in you. Embrace who she was and what she did. That will change you and our country in the most amazing ways.

Linda Harris is director of the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Cambridge.

The Baltimore Banner welcomes opinion pieces and letters to the editor. Please send submissions to communityvoices@thebaltimorebanner.com or letters@thebaltimorebanner.com.

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