Many Tennesseans — including congressmen — saw the decision to move Andrew Jackson’s portrait to the back of the $20 bill and put Harriett Tubman’s likeness on front as an attack on the historical contributions of the nation’s seventh president, reports Michael Collins.
“Dismayed and disappointed would be two words we would use to describe the decision,” said Howard J. Kittell, president and CEO of the Andrew Jackson Foundation in Nashville.
Kittell and other Tennesseans say it’s unfair to judge Jackson’s actions on slavery and Indian removal in the early 1800s through the lens of the 21st century.
Although it’s hard for us to imagine today, Jackson’s positions on those issues and others “fell within the mainstream of American thinking” at the time, Kittell said, and it’s important to evaluate him in that context.
…”Andrew Jackson was a great Tennessean and American, and I am extremely disappointed that this announcement appears to be as much an attack on his legacy as it is a celebration of Harriet Tubman,” said U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City.
Jackson and Tubman should both be celebrated for their historical significance, Roe said.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Ooltewah, called Jackson “a patriot” and said the decision to move him to the back of the bill “unnecessary”
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Chattanooga, said he supports finding new ways to pay tribute “to the many deserving women throughout American history.”
But, “I would hope we could do so without diminishing the legacy of others,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-South Pittsburgh, also criticized the decision. Tubman was an American heroine who deserves the highest recognition, DesJarlais said, but not at the expense of distorting Jackson’s place in history.
“Jackson was a Tennessean through and through — a colorful character, a military hero, and most importantly, a man who believed in paying off our debts,” DesJarlais said. “In fact, he was the last president to pay off our national debt in 1835. Rather than push him off the face of the $20, Washington should rededicate itself to adhering to his financial policies.”
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., R-Knoxville, said while he respects and admires Tubman, “Andrew Jackson was a more significant figure in the history of this country.”
Duncan suggested he might have a solution to the Jackson vs. Tubman quandary.
“When the next administration comes in,” he said, “I hope we can convince the next treasurer to print an equal number of $20 bills with both Jackson and Tubman.”