Mother Is Smiling Now


Like many, I was surprised and skeptical when reports began to surface that Andy J. was off the front of the $20 bill with Harriet Tubman appearing in his place.  The expectation until recently was for Alexander Hamilton to leave the $10.

Before surfing the web, I wondered would the outcome have been the same if Lin-Manuel Miranda hadn’t stormed Broadway with Hamilton? Apparently Business Insider had the same thought and concluded absolutely not.

Of course there’s more to the decision than a bunch of rapping founding fathers. Andy J. fell from public regard despite Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson.

  • there’s that matter of enslaving some one hundred humans
  • there’s dissemination and promotion of the “spoils” system, which endures to this day, giving jobs to party loyalists
  • and then there’s that years’ long genocide inflicted on called the Trail of Tears in which Native Americans left the blood, the bones – and their tears – in the long march from places in Georgia, Alabama, etc. to the desolate waste of the Oklahoma territory.


Politics aside, it’s time for A.J. to leave center stage. The current fathers did him no favors when they gave him a makeover that included what looked like hair by mega stylists April Barton or John Barrett. Plus there’s that weird angle with the jacket that gives him the Quasimodo look.

I hope and pray that no one tries to do the same to the image of Mrs. Tubman. She and my mother will no doubt return from the great beyond and wreak havoc on whoever tries it  — and probably anyone who so much as touches any prettified version.

Here’s the section on Harriet Tubman from the Wasch Center lecture. I had talked about how Mother wrote her books for young people about survivors.

More notably, of course, there is Harriet Tubman, who escaped from a plantation; returned South over and over to escort bondsmen and women to freedom; and served as a nurse and spy for the Union army during the Civil War. It still amazes me that Mother – indeed most of the rest of the world – had not heard of “Moses” in the early 1950s.

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad came about because Mother attended a Book and Author luncheon and was seated next to Carl Carmer. He wrote Stars Fell on Alabama, which described the brutality and beauty of the state. He also wrote a series about the eccentrics and outcasts of New York State. Mother admired Dark Trees in the Wind. “I said, ‘You’ve got quite a farm here. ‘It’s good land,’ he said. ‘It lies nice to the morning sun.’ ”

Carmer mentioned a woman of whom Mother knew nothing. “He told me that he had known Harriet Tubman when she was an old lady in Auburn, New York. He asked me why I didn’t write a book about her – a book for young people. Once I began reading … I don’t think anything could have stopped me from writing about her because of her courage and her enormous strength of character.” [From notes] After Harriet Tubman was published, accounts of this iconic woman began appearing in American history textbooks. This work and excerpts from it consistently outsell the rest of Mother’s books combined.

And soon she will be in the hands of everyone in the country and many other parts of the world. At last.

3 thoughts on “Mother Is Smiling Now”

  1. Her tough and fiercely determined personae is mirrored in her face. She is a heroine of epic proportions. Recognizing her is a sign for all of us that this Nation has begun to heal. Truth is a beautiful thing and so is Harriet’s image on the $20.00 bill of the United States of America.

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