Harriet Tubman is perfect for the $20 bill, but which Tubman?

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tags: Harriet Tubman



So now that it’s confirmed that Harriet Tubman will grace the front of the $20 bill, the next question is: Which Tubman? The antebellum abolitionist who supported John Brown and criticized Lincoln for his incrementalist approach to abolishing slavery, or the post-war figure of legend who was the subject of sentimental biographies?

Designs for the new bill haven’t been released, and it could be well into the next decade for the newly designed currency to begin circulating. But the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will have some interesting choices when it comes to representing Tubman. The iconography of Tubman imagery generally falls into two categories: The best-known, and perhaps best-loved, images depict her as a little old lady, after the war, primly dressed and often sporting a head wrap. But while Tubman may have looked grandmotherly, she also was a ferociously brave and determined woman, and was occasionally depicted as such.




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