Harriet Tubman and Andrew Jackson

In 2020 the United States Treasury will begin issuing new $20 bills, and on 20 April 2016 Jacob L. Lew, the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, announced that Harriet Tubman would replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of these new notes. Jackson’s image will be relegated to the reverse side of the new currency. $20 noteTubman will be the first American woman to appear on U.S. paper currency in more than a century (Martha Washington and Pocahontas appeared on American paper currency in the late nineteenth century).

It is a momentous decision, for a runaway slave woman will be replacing a slave-holding president.runaway advertisement Jackson was a planter who owned hundreds of slaves, and when one of these slaves ran away in 1804 Jackson was clearly angered that his human property had eloped. Approximately thirty years-old and over six feet tall, the man had contrived to secure forged papers which would enable him to pass as a free man. Angrily Jackson promised that any person who captured the runaway outside of Tennessee would receive not only the reward of fifty dollars, but a further reward of ‘ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.’

If Jackson was angry at his own eloped slave, a runaway like Harriet Tubman would have enraged him. Born into slavery in Maryland in about 1822, Tubman was beaten and whipped as a child and young woman, and one of these injuries impaired her with seizures for the rest of her life.Tubman advertisement In 1849 when her owner’s death threatened the sale and break-up of her family, Tubman decided to escape. A first attempt prompted her master to place his own advertisement in a local newspaper, eager to reclaim this valuable woman. She soon tried again, and this time made it the almost hundred miles to Pennsylvania, and she recalled that on crossing onto free soil ‘I felt like I was in Heaven.’

Having secured her own freedom, Tubman chose to return to Maryland at least ten times, acting as a conductor of the Underground Railroad, and guiding approximately three hundred enslaved men, women and children to freedom, including members of her own family.Harriet Tubman This was incredibly dangerous work, and had she been captured Tubman would quite likely have lost her life. Frederick Douglass, another runaway slave who was campaigning against slavery throughout the American North and the British Isles, had nothing but admiration for Tubman. He wrote to her acknowledging that he had ‘wrought in the day – you in the night’. While Douglass had been campaigning, Tubman had been risking her life to rescue people from slavery. ‘I know of no one who has willingly encountered more perils and hardships to serve our enslaved people than you have,’ Douglass concluded. Small wonder that Tubman was affectionately known as ‘Moses.’

The Federal Reserve website reports that in 2015 there were more than 8.6 billion $20 bills in circulation. In a few year’s time Harriet Tubman’s face will be on all of those twenty dollar bills, and her’s will have become one of the most widely printed, disseminated and recognized female faces in the United States. A runaway slave will have become one of the foremost faces of America.

Simon P. Newman

Images:

(1) Current US $20 note

(2) Runaway Slave Advertisement placed by Andrew Jackson in the Tennessee Gazette, and Mero District Advertiser (Nashville), 26 September 1804. The advertisement was reprinted at least four and perhaps as many as seven times over the following two months. See Robert P. Hay, ‘“And Ten Dollars Extra, for Every Hundred Lashes Any Person Will Give Him, to the Amount of Three Hundred,”’ Tennessee Historical Quarterly, 36, 4 (1977), 468-78.

(3)Runaway slave advertisement for Harriet Tubman (named as Minty), Cambridge Democrat (Dorchester, Maryland), 3 October 1849.

(4) Harriet Tubman (photograph by H.B. Lindsley, ca. 1860-75, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-7816

Project Team: United States Research/Symposium Trip, April 2016

This article summarises a University of Glasgow research/symposium trip to the United States of America in April 2016. Professor Simon Newman, Dr. Stephen Mullen, Mr Nelson Mundell, Dr Felicity Donohoe and postgraduate researchers Debra Burnett and Marenka Odlum-Thompson made the trip across the Atlantic which was centred around a symposium at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, VA, on 11-15 April 2016.

Staff and students from Glasgow and Edinburgh at UVA
Staff and students from Glasgow and Edinburgh at UVA

The trip was made in collaboration with scholars from the University of Edinburgh, led by Professor Frank Cogliano. For nine years, there has been a monthly transatlantic videoconference (held at the University of Edinburgh and UVA) attended by staff and postgraduate students at Virginia, Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities: the trip connected friends and colleagues who have been in regular collegiate discussion for almost a decade. The participation of Glasgow staff, postdocs and Ph.D students was made possible by a grant from the Chancellor’s Fund of the University of Glasgow, as well as an award from the Embassy of the United States. Additional support came from the University of Edinburgh.

George Washington Monument
George Washington Monument

Several of the Glasgow team took advantage of the trip to look at archive holdings related to their personal research. Due to generous assistance from the University of Glasgow History Research Support Fund, Stephen Mullen spent some time in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C and Princeton University. Nelson Mundell is on an extended fellowship (blog to follow!) at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies (ICJS).

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

And academics get a day off too! Allowing for some time for a little sight-seeing of famous landmarks: United States Capitol Building, Independence Avenue (with many museums), The Washington Monument and The White House.

The real work began on Tuesday 12 April 2016 at the University of Virginia. At UVA, we were provided with a tour of Harrison Institute and Small Special Collections Library including a museum exhibit of material related to the American War of Independence. There was also a tour of the Digital Production Group and their work, including digitisation the letters of Thomas Jefferson.

Thomas Jefferson bust, Harrison Institute, UVA
Thomas Jefferson bust, Harrison Institute, UVA

The Edinburgh/Glasgow team were allowed a special viewing of Thomas Jefferson materials by Edward Gaynor, Librarian for Virginia and University Archives. Edward discussed Jefferson’s role in establishing the University of Virginia in 1819 including his preference for English, Irish and Scottish Professors over Germans in the early days (although a German Professor was employed in any case)! The Postdocs from both Edinburgh and Glasgow met with Professor Alan Taylor of UVA for a useful discussion. Simultaneously, postgraduate students attended Max Edelson’s Graduate Seminar in Nau Hall, UVA. On the evening, Glasgow, Edinburgh and UVA staff and students attended the Early American Seminar at ICJS to hear Edinburgh Ph.D student Ryan McGuiness’ paper on ‘The Barbadian Import and Export Trade, 1680-1700’.

The project team were present at Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s slave plantation in Charlottesville) on 13 April 2016, which was Jefferson’s 273rd birthday.

Thomas Jefferson statue, Monticello
Thomas Jefferson statue, Monticello

There was a short ceremony – with the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp – for Jefferson’s birthday and Founders Day which was followed by an acceptance speech by Marian Wright Edelman, who was awarded the 2016 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Citizen Leadership.

U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp
U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corp

The team were treated to a bespoke tour of Jefferson’s Monticello by Liz Marshall. Back at UVA in the afternoon many attended the Cross Lecture by Professor Gary Gallagher entitled: ‘All About US: Projection, Wishful Thinking, and Anachronism in Recent Civil War Scholarship’. Thursday 14 April was workshop day centred on career development on both sides of the Atlantic: Professors Frank Cogliano, Max Edelson, Simon Newman and Alan Taylor were joined in discussion with Head of UVA Press, Dick Holway. Postgraduates enjoyed a dissertation workshop in the afternoon, presenting short outlines of their ongoing research projects. There was a concluding dinner in Charlottesville in the evening.

Some of the team made their way back to Washington D.C. on Friday 15 April. Others stayed on. I (Stephen Mullen) made my way to Princeton University in New Jersey to look at archive holdings in Special Collections.

Nassau Hall, Princeton University
Nassau Hall, Princeton University

Princeton has strong connections with Scotland and the Scottish Enlightenment and is Professor Simon Newman’s alma mater. A Scots Minister, John Witherspoon was President of Princeton (1768-1794) during the revolutionary period and was the only college president to sign the Declaration of Independence. It was a great experience to be researching in an Ivy League University with such strong Scottish connections. In all, this was an illuminating multifaceted trip: many gained important professional experience, met new friends, undertook research or delivered presentations on their work. The Glasgow team were sad to leave and we hope to see our friends in Edinburgh and at UVA in the near future.