Harriet Tubman, Andrew Jackson and the Twenty-Dollar Bill
On November 20, 2018, Sheneese Thompson and Franco Barchiesi have published an article entitled “Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson on the Twenty-Dollar Bill: A Monstrous Intimacy” in Open Cultural Studies.
A Blog Post by Pablo Markin.
In their article, Thompson and Barchiesi have explored the “controversy surrounding the announcement by the US Treasury, in April 2016, that the portraits of Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson will “share” the twenty-dollar bill” (417). According to these authors, the controversy revolves around “the possibility that Harriet Tubman, a formerly enslaved Black woman and armed resister against the very institution of slavery, which was central to the constitutional dispensation Jackson represented, would adorn the means through which captive property was transacted” (418).
In their research, Thompson and Barchiesi have approached the “twenty-dollar bill as spectacle, the staging of a performance and narrative through which the image of Tubman as a Black woman is required to do rhetorical labour for the sustenance of anti-Black civil discourse translated into institutional dilemmas” (419). These scholars argue that, in reference to “Tubman’s image joining Jackson’s on the bill, Wilderson (Red 42) gets at the root of the problem in reference to Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, reiterating that Black people are “nothing more and certainly nothing less” than comparison. Despite Tubman’s own historical achievements, her Blackness does not allow her sovereignty” (426).
In their conclusion, the researchers have noted that “[m]ainstream opinion makers in outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times have hailed Tubman and Jackson symbolically joining forces as a gesture consonant with the progressive feelings of a majority of Americans” (437). Thompson and Barchiesi have, however, responded to this instance of “Tubman’s memorialization” by their effort to “correct the record, excavate her voice from the annals of history, promote fugitivity, and lastly, disavow the multilayered monstrosity of the intimacy alluded to by pairing her with Jackson on money once used to sanction her purchase, bounty, and bondage” (427-428).
By Pablo Markin
Featured Image Credits: Janinah Burnett as Harriet Tubman, February 18, 2014 | © Courtesy of Richard Termine/AOP Images/Flickr.