Thursday, May 05, 2016

Portrait of Harriet Tubman to Grace $20 Bill

On April 20 the US Treasury announced its decision that Harriet Tubman, the anti-slavery campaigner, is set to appear on the front of the $20 bill, becoming the first woman to be the face of a bill of US currency.

Reallife superheroes are priceless.

Slaves who own dishwashers are underrated, whether they’re owned or not. Time flies anyway, so why waste it? I wanted to write about the new $20 bill before, but today seems equally apt. May 5 is Liberation Day in the Netherlands. We Dutch celebrate the end of World War II. On top of that it is Ascension Day.

Holland largely managed to stay out of the Great War that came first. Hence little attention is paid to it in history class. When it comes to the rest of the world, they did teach us that Columbus kinda “discovered” America. Our textbooks mention racial segregation, which was obviously bad. Mainly because it reminded us of the apartheid ruling South Africa. Apartheid is a Dutch word and we all felt ashamed.

Years later I was riding the local bus somewhere in Iran. The country’s laws do not allow for men and women to sit next to each other. As passengers left and entered the bus, at each stop the seating plan got rearranged. I was surprised, but mainly because how smooth it all went. Then the name Rosa Parks popped into my mind and I realized just how little I knew and how limited our view of the world is.

Good thing then, there is the internet, so I read up on Mrs. Parks. Watching “Sons of Anarchy”, I also learned about Jim Crow. A few years later I heard of Harriet Tubman for the first time. Frankly if they should have taught us anything about American history in secondary school, it is her. The story of her life is one of the most impressive I’ve ever come across, no matter how bleak it all is. An escaped slave herself, who risks it all, by helping others escape. Scout and spy during the Civil War. After the war she was active in the sufragette movement. I very much like the idea of Harriet Tubman gracing the $20 bill. But it shouldn’t stop there.

The next few hours of my “involuntary” freedom, I’ll spend reading Arnold Schwarzenegger’s memoirs before I go out and party. There is much brain behind the Terminator's muscle. Something obscured by the fact that people hardly ever look beyond the surface. The next book on my list probably will be a biography of Harriet Tubman. Total Recall anyone?

Several other new designs will be introduced, including a new $5 bill with the portait of Martin Luther King Jr. on the reverse. Harriet Tubman is the only portrait to face a new dollar bill. (Image: US Treasury)

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