Can Maryland Really Claim Harriet Tubman?

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Image via CBS
Image via CBS

As we noted yesterday, there’s growing momentum behind a campaign to replace Andrew Jackson, arguably the engineer of genocide, on the $20 bill. The leading contender to replace him? None other than Underground Railroad hero Harriet Tubman. Which is an awesome idea. 

However: As many people are pointing out, it’s slightly awkward that Maryland is working so hard to claim Tubman as one of our own. Tubman was born a slave in Maryland, and her pivotal role with the Underground Railroad began with her own escape and flight north to Pennsylvania. While Tubman returned to Maryland later in life, she did so in order to help other fugitive slaves escape the state.

This is not to say that I don’t want Tubman on the $20. Quite the opposite, really! (Though not everyone agrees, it turns out.) But I think we all have to be a little careful when we’re remembering our history as a state. While there’s plenty to celebrate, there are shameful episodes, too. Let’s try to keep that in mind, too.



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