Though she will not appear on the $20 bill this year, Harriet Tubman will be on the big screen everywhere next month — including the 99-seat, mom-and-pop arts cinema near you.
“Harriet,” a new biopic of the Underground Railroad’s foremost conductor, will surprise those unaware of her role as a scout for the Union Army.
No word yet whether Attorney General William Barr will file posthumous charges against Tubman for spying on American citizens defending the constitutionally guaranteed property rights of “very fine people.”
But you can bet that Republicans will put her on next year’s presidential ballot.
Starting with Donald Trump, who often poses before a portrait of the war-hero-turned-president Tubman would replace. As he told People magazine: “Andrew Jackson had a history of tremendous success for the country … been on the bill for many, many years and, you know, really represented somebody that really was very important to this country.”
At least he put Jackson in the past tense, unlike his comments on Frederick Douglass that left many wondering if he mistook the 19th century escaped slave-turned-abolitionist for Colin Powell.
That was before Powell complained that Trump has turned “We the People” into “Me the President.”
More likely, judging from Trump’s idea of a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, he mistook Douglass for Tiger Woods.
To be fair, he did call Tubman “fantastic” and suggested her for the $2 bill, while condemning the replacement of Jackson as “pure political correctness.”
It is not clear whether Trump knows that the Tubman 20 will keep Old Hickory on its back, knows that we already have a deuce, that Thomas Jefferson is on it, or even knows who Jefferson was.
In April, Fortune reported that Trump’s Treasury Department “quietly” pushed the Tubman 20 to 2026 — six years too late to observe the centennial of women’s suffrage as intended.
Hard to believe that anything about our self-proclaimed “student of history” will be quiet, so here’s a prediction you can literally take to the bank: Trump will inject the $20 bill into the campaign no later than Columbus Day next year.
Whether or not Fox News opens the account, Trump will cash in, boasting of saving us from “political correctness.” The bill itself, with Jackson, will become as much a campaign presence as MAGA hats and Confederate flags.
Forgive the pun, but the Tubman 20 fits Trump’s bill: Harp on political correctness, undo anything done by Obama, sow division, align with white nationalists.
In May, he invoked political correctness to complain about the disqualification of a horse in the Kentucky Derby — despite replays clearly showing an infraction.
Unless we now believe that rules are for losers, the claim’s only purpose was to keep his base riled.
On the first anniversary of Charlottesville, he doubled down on his defense of “very fine people” who chanted “The Jew will not replace us!” while sporting swastikas and iron crosses.
By reminding us that the protest was originally against the removal of a Confederate monument, he again conjured up the specter of political correctness: “(Robert E. Lee) was one of the great generals. I have spoken to many generals here, right at the White House, and many people thought — of the generals, they think that he was maybe their favorite general.”
Somehow the disdain aimed at the late Sen. John McCain for having been captured in Vietnam doesn’t apply to the guy who waved a white flag into Appomattox.
Hide the ship, but spare the statue!
If Trump says that about a traitor who prolonged a civil war for who-knows-how-many deaths, then Andrew Jackson as a rallying cry will sound benevolent by comparison.
That both owned slaves they ordered beaten may appall the rest of us, but his base will refuse to acknowledge it. Strange how, in every case regarding Confederate flags and monuments, those least aware of history are the most adamant about “preserving” it.
“Political correctness” serves as their excuse to deny historical truth and ridicule those who insist on it.
If you doubt that, just watch how many people vote for Jackson over Tubman next year — with Christopher Columbus as his running mate.
Take Jack Garvey’s bet at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Harriet” will open Nov. 1 at the Screening Room in Newburyport, where a doctored Tubman 20 is already on display in its State Street windows.