Harriet Tubman escaped slavery in 1849 and went on to be a leader in the operations of an Underground Railroad providing routes for slaves to escape to the north. She organized 13 trips to the south, bringing 70 slaves to freedom. She was the first woman to lead a United States Army raid that freed more than 700 slaves in South Carolina in 1863. Until her death in 1913 at the age of 91, she was active in the abolition and suffrage movements and a promoter of the Republican Party. The latter is a fact that many modern historians and documentarians omit.
Tubman arose out of contemporary obscurity in 2016, when President Obama proposed her image on the $20 bill in place of President Andrew Jackson. He did not proceed with the plan. Some have suggested that he put the idea on hold after he got pushback from Democrat leaders – who still revere the white supremacist Jackson as their iconic hero. In fact, annual Jackson Day Dinners is the equivalent of the Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinners.
President Trump never demonstrated any interest in the Tubman $20 bill proposal. It may be due to his personal admiration for Jackson. He ordered Jackson’s portrait to be given a place of honor in the Oval Office – and among his first travels as President, Trump visited the Jackson gravesite. Trump has never been good at pointing to the historic distinctions between the Democratic and Republican parties on issues of civil rights. (At the time, I wrote a critical commentary entitled “Trump’s visit to Jackson’s grave was a disgraceful act of historical ignorance”.)
Early on, President Biden promised to follow through with the new Tubman $20 bill. After three years in office, however, no action had been taken.
Harriet Tubman is in the news again – this time the controversy is over a statue of the abolitionist. It began when the Creative Philly – the Philadelphia Office of Arts Culture and Creative Economy – commissioned artist Wesley Wolford to create a “temporary” statue honoring Tubman. The statue named “Journey to Freedom” depicted Tubman as young woman leading a group of slaves to freedom with rifle in hand. (Tubman routinely carried a pistol, but a bit of artistic license is okay.)
After being displayed in Philadelphia, the statue was sent on a 17-city tour in which it was viewed to great acclaim. The statue became so popular that Creative Philly gave Wolford a $500,000 commission to create a version of the statue for permanent display on the City’s commons.
That is when the clay hit the woke fan.
A modicum of pushbacks came because Creative Philly did not put the job up for bids. Based on the past involvement with Wolford and his statue, they wanted him to make a permanent one – obviously something no other artist could do.
The real pushback came from the radical woke left. You see, Wolford is a … white male. According to leftwing woke orthodoxy, no white person can produce a meaningful work of art depicting a black woman. Even though Wolford already had. Only a black person – preferably a woman – can have the experiential sensitivity to perform the task … so the critics claimed. Only Black artists “can truly understand and portray Tubman’s struggles and achievements.” If you follow that line of reasoning, the artist should be a black woman REPUBLICAN.
(Psssst! Do not tell the terminally offended perma-pissed folks on the woke left that the official White House portrait of President Obama was done by Robert McCurdy … a white male. But I digress.)
As for Harriet Tubman, Creative Philly should proceed with Wolford … Biden should make good on his promise to get the lady on the $20 bill before he forgets again … and every Republican organization in American should have a “Harriet Tubman Day.”