After escaping slavery, Harriet Tubman made over 12 return trips to slave states to help bring other slaves to freedom. Once in the North, she would have taken them to a place of refuge on the Underground Railroad like the Myers House on Livingston Avenue in Albany.
More than 100 years after she died, the U.S. Treasury said her name was voted by over 1.5 million people to be the next face of the $20 bill. Ironically, she will replace slave owner Pres. Andrew Jackson.
“How ironic that the proposal is to replace him with the exact opposite,” Albany historian John McEneny said.
Tubman, also known as Moses, is spoken of like an urban legend. Historians said courage was necessary to get her started, but her intelligence while traveling is what kept her from getting caught.
“You would have to pose that you were a slave; maybe running an errand for a master,” McEneny said. “You would have to appear very subservient. You’d have to know when to travel by night.”
Historians said it’s possible she could have made a stop at the Myers House on one of her many trips. The Myers House is now a museum on the historic registry. During Tubman’s time, the woods were only a street away from the Myers House, which would have made it perfect for slaves who needed to hide in plain sight.
Historians said some will see Jackson’s replacement on the $20 bill as a demotion in status while others will call Tubman being added as an historic victory.
“How many people from Tennessee are going to be upset because he’s a local hero?” McEneny said.
“Now with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, I don’t know how they’re going to feel,” Stewart said.
In a time where African Americans and women were strongly discriminated against, Tubman stood tall and fought for her freedom and that of others.
“Remind people every time of the greatness and the sacrifice and hard work of Harriet Tubman, I think that’s a reminder all Americans can use,” McEneny said. “Andrew Jackson was a great champion of slavery, so it’s only poetic justice that he is replaced by Harriet Tubman.”
The new Harriet Tubman $20 bill will be unveiled by the Treasury in 2020 along with new versions of the $5 and $10. Alexander Hamilton will remain on the $10 bill.
The new bills will be in circulation around 2030.
Below are a few fast facts about Harriet Tubman:
– Tubman “returned to the South an estimated 19 times” to lead slaves to freedom to the North via the Underground Railroad.
– During the Civil War, Union soldiers relied on Tubman, who served as a spy and scout, to “guide them when poorly drawn and outdated maps could not.”
– The Quaker Thomas Garrett said of her, “If she had been a white woman, she would have been heralded as the greatest woman of her age.”
– After the war, Tubman “advocated for education and property for freed slaves in the South and she cared for the elderly and poor.”
– After her death in 1913, she was nicknamed “General Tubman” “and laid to rest with military honors –- one of the first recorded African-American women to serve in the military.”