By Jessica Umbro
For The Diamondback
As President Joe Biden revives the plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, some members of the University of Maryland community are expressing mixed emotions about the push.
The movement to replace the current face of the bill, former President Andrew Jackson, is not new. President Barack Obama set out to replace Jackson in 2016, citing Jackson’s slave-owning and abuse of Indigenous people.
However, during the Trump administration, the campaign for the bill redesign was postponed.
In September, this university announced its women’s studies department would be renamed to the Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies.
Ashwini Tambe, a professor and interim chair of the department, said she sees an educational benefit to putting Tubman on the bill.
“If having Harriet Tubman’s face and name spurs a conversation about how the wealth of this nation was built upon the backs of the enslaved, then it would be a good thing,” Tambe said.
Bonnie Thornton Dill, dean of the arts and humanities college and a women’s studies professor, said she sees the change as an opportunity for the United States to recognize its true history.
“The history of the work that people like Harriet Tubman have done, and Frederick Douglass, and many unnamed people, has not been recognized, so it is making a more inclusive history,” she said. “Her presence there symbolizes a national acknowledgement of the importance of this in creating a truly democratic United States.”
But Alysa Conway, a co-organizer for Black Terps Matter, said she thinks the Biden administration is not prioritizing the true needs of the Black community.
“We’re dealing with major economic and social inequities and inequalities to face within our policies,” the senior government and politics and public policy major said. “I would rather have that be of the main focus than to promote this performative act.”
Though Conway said she thinks having Tubman on the bill “would be great,” she wants to know more about “how the bill impacts the community” than who is simply on the face of it.
In place of performative acts that do not remedy the greater foundational problems faced by communities of color in the United States, Conway said she has a simple message for those who want to help: invest.
“Invest can mean donating to Black communities, especially low-income communities,” Conway said. “It could mean investing in education, and that means reading books, watching podcasts, checking out different news articles that really articulate how white supremacy is formulated across the country.”