Harriet Tubman Will Be On The Twenty Dollar Bill

And Hamilton stays on the ten.

Usually I hate 4/20, but this is going down in history as a particularly good one: Politico reports that the United States Treasury will announce that they're placing Harriet Tubman on the front of the 20 dollar bill, a change that should go into effect by 2020. 

For our non-American readers: Harriet Tubman was one of the greatest Americans who ever lived. A long, powerful story short: Tubman was born into slavery, from which she bravely escaped. But rather than head to Canada - still a British territory, and where slavery had been outlawed - she stayed in the United States, even as the Fugitive Slave Act made her freedom insecure in the free states in the North. She made thirteen journeys back to slave states to help other blacks escape bondage, earning her the nickname 'The Moses of Her People.'  She helped John Brown, one of the great abolitionist madmen, recruit bodies for his ill-fated raid on Harper's Ferry (the Alamo of the abolitionist movement, if there ever was one). When the Civil War broke out she worked as a spy for the Union Army. After the war, her work not finished, she turned her attention to women's suffrage. 

That's the shortest possible version. Tubman is a towering figure not just in American history but in human history, and placing her on the 20 dollar bill is an honor long overdue. I am gladdened to be alive to see it happen. 

Tubman's spot on currency comes after some controversy; last year the Treasury Department announced they were going to kick Alexander Hamilton, America's first Secretary of the Treasury, off the 10 and replace him with a woman. Most people wanted the woman on currency, but many were baffled why A. Ham had to go when the 20 featured "Bloody" Andrew Jackson, a dude who waged genocidal war against Native Americans. Like, if you're gonna boot one old white dude off your money, Jackson is the clear choice.

That choice got way clearer last year when Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton became one of the most unlikely hits in modern cultural history. The hip hop Broadway show about the life of "the ten dollar Founding Father" sparked a brand new interest in the man who had been a semi-anonymous figurehead on money. All of a sudden a lot of people who hadn't previously given a shit about who was on the ten - people like me! - passionately cared that A. Ham got his due. 

I suspect that Jackson's days on the front of currency were numbered anyway (it's reported he'll be on the back of the 20 now) but I truly believe that Hamilton - which won the Pulitzer this week - sealed the deal for him. There's just no way to take Hamilton off the ten at this current historical moment, and the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson just wasn't as popular.

This is one of those events that make me so happy. It's a moment where many great things come together - it's a stepping stone for our nation, which will now be confronting slavery in a way that it never has before, by putting a slave on our currency. It's a testament to the power of art, which has completely changed the way people think about a previously obscure historical figure. And it's just a huge victory for women, who finally have some representation on our country's money. 

And just to bring it all back to movies, this pretty much guarantees we'll be seeing a high profile, star-driven Harriet Tubman movie by 2020, right? Hell, her life is so big and expansive you could do a whole trilogy about her, and we know Hollywood loves franchises.

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