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

The most well-known images of Harriet Tubman shows her looking like a gentle grandmother. Which she was not. Tubman was a guerrilla fighter against slavery, notes Phillip Kennicott at the Washington Post:

… when the National Portrait Gallery featured an image of Tubman in a 2013 exhibition devoted to African Americans and the Civil War, they used another reproduction of a Tubman image, showing her dressed not for a Victorian photography studio, but in her outdoors garb, holding a gun.

Taken from a book about Tubman, this was a shockingly confrontational image. Although Tubman served in the U.S. Army during the war, and even led an armed raid that freed hundreds of slaves, the inclusion of a gun in a 19th-century image of an African American woman was startling. It also reminded readers that the acts for which Tubman is most celebrated—missions into Southern states to rescue slaves from bondage—were illegal, though obviously not immoral. After the infamous 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, even her own rescued relatives ran the risk of being returned to slavery. Tubman wasn’t working within the system; she saw clearly that the system couldn’t be reformed or repaired, only broken and replaced.

Use the armed picture. There was nothing nice about slavery, and we do Tubman and slavery’s other antagonists and victims a disservice when we try to soften it up.

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