The North Country Underground Railroad History Society is pumped about the U.S. Treasury Department’s decision to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Pictured here is Jackie Madison, the organization’s president.
AUSABLE CHASM— Officials at the North Country’s link to America’s horrific slave past are thrilled at the U.S. Treasury Department’s decision to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Jackie Madison, who serves as President of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association (NCURHA), on last week’s announcement that bumped President Andrew Jackson to the back of the currency.
Tubman was tough, Madison said.
In addition to escorting escaped slaves to freedom in Canada, the abolitionist and humanitarian was also a spy for the U.S. Army during the Civil War.
While Keeseville, Peru and Champlain were documented stops on the Underground Railroad, Tubman’s route mainly took her through Central New York.
Madison hoped the groundbreaking decision will lead to a more sustained focus on the role minorities had in shaping the nation’s history.
“The history of many ethnic groups, especially minorities, are not well told in our school system today,” Madison said.
Public schools tend to only teach black history in February. After that, Madison said, interest trails off unless a teacher has a personal interest. The same is true for other ethnic groups.
Don Papson, founder and past NCURHA president, said the recognition was long overdue and dovetails with two major upcoming projects in the Tubman world:
Last week, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed off on establishing Tubman’s former home in Auburn, NY, as a National Historical Park.
The abolitionist is also the subject of a new national monument in Maryland. More work is slated in conjunction with a planned state park.
Inclusion on the $20 bill, Papson said, is going to have a “tremendous” positive effect on Tubman’s legacy.
“She is extremely worthy for this recognition,” Papson said. “Hopefully with her on the bill, it will stimulate people to know more about her — she’s an icon.”
The story of Tubman, said Madison, is intertwined with that of America.
“Harriet Tubman did a lot to help others to get what our nation stands for, which is freedom,” Madison said.
Madison said the humanitarian, who passed away in 1913, likely wouldn’t be blown away by her pending prime top slot on the currency, which is slated to be rolled out in 2020.
“I think she was a really down to earth individual who was interested in the welfare of her family and those who she loved around her,” Madison said.
The North Star Underground Railroad Museum opens on Memorial Day.