Blog #149 – Final Exam blog – Rethinking History or Should Jackson Still Be on the $20?
In the past few years, students and adults have pushed to change the names of schools and institutions based upon the namesake’s past history. Back in 2015, for instance, the Confederate flag was pulled down from the South Carolina capitol in the wake of the Charleston shootings (the shooter was pictured w/ Confederate memorabilia), and then the South Carolina legislature voted overwhelmingly to take the flag down. This Economist article examines other particular cases not mentioned in the “Rethinking History”. From another point of view, this article defends leaving the Hoover FBI federal building as it is, though some have come to question Hoover’s tough-minded, illegal wiretappings of students and Dr. King (Cointelpro). Since the Charleston church shooting, there has been a concerted effort to begin the controversial process of taking down statues to leaders of the Confederacy throughout the South. In an August 2017 statement on the monuments controversy, the American Historical Association (AHA) said that to remove a monument “is not to erase history, but rather to alter or call attention to a previous interpretation of history.” The AHA stated that most monuments were erected “without anything resembling a democratic process,” and recommended that it was “time to reconsider these decisions.” According to the AHA, most Confederate monuments were erected during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, and this undertaking was “part and parcel of the initiation of legally mandated segregation and widespread disenfranchisement across the South.” According to the AHA, memorials to the Confederacy erected during in the 1890s “were intended, in part, to obscure the terrorism required to overthrow Reconstruction, and to intimidate African Americans politically and isolate them from the mainstream of public life.” A later wave of monument building coincided with the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s, and according to the AHA “these symbols of white supremacy are still being invoked for similar purposes.”
In the summer of 2020, America had a reckoning with Confederate monuments of all types and some people started tearing down some that still remained. Some saw these monuments as symbol of the systemic racism in the country that celebrated men who fought to keep Black folks enslaved. Other people thought that history was being “canceled” or erased by the removal of Confederate monuments. Some protestors even went after the large statue of Andrew Jackson in D.C. but could not pull it down (see pic below). Then President Trump issued an executive order that would prosecute people who defaced or destroyed federal statues.
In the article, “Rethinking History,” former Princeton president and 28th President of the United States Woodrow Wilson is derided because of his racist comments. He told a black leader in 1914 that “segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit, and ought to be so regarded by you.” A different example from the article is what the University of Virginia has done in the past decade in trying to honor its slave past. At least 140 slaves helped build the university, and this fall, Virginia opened up a dorm named after two of the slaves who had worked on the campus before the Civil War.
One argument against changing the names of buildings or taking people off of our money is that our culture has become incredibly mired in political correctness. We are too worried about offending people, the argument goes, so we make decisions like these to make sure no one gets triggered. An argument for changing the names of buildings (like was recently done to Cobo Hall down town after people began to rethink the Detroit mayor’s stance against blacks integrating white neighborhoods in the 1950s) is that some things need to be fixed because having your name on a building is an honor. Are we finally recognizing the faults of the past and trying to make amends for them, because our nation, though it’s been a melting pot since its inception, is really starting to change? Or, can we learn something from the past instead of erasing it and blocking the things which we find disturbing?
This brings us to Andrew Jackson. This NY Times article from 2015 suggested putting a woman’s face on the 20$ bill.
“Jackson was a slave owner whose decisions annihilated American Indian tribes of the Southeast. He also hated paper currency and vetoed the reauthorization of the Second Bank of the United States, a predecessor of the Federal Reserve. Jackson is in the history books, but there’s no reason to keep him in our wallets.”
His record with the Indian Removal Act, his battles w/ Nicholas Biddle and the 2nd BUS, and the fact that he was a slave owner all count against him. But what about his adoption of an Indian boy during one of the campaigns to eradicate the Indians? Did America actually benefit from not having a central banking system for almost 80 years? He was a symbol of the common man, those who could newly vote in the elections of 1828 and 1832 voted for him overwhelmingly, because he was a common man at one time. But he was also an exceptional man, having fought in the War of 1812, amassed a fortune (though off the backs of slaves), and become the 7th president of the United States. There are very very few people who can claim these achievements.
Andrew Jackson was first honored by being on the $20 beginning in 1928 (to coincide w/ the 100th anniversary of his electio). Before that, Presidents Grover Cleveland and George Washington were on the bill as well as former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and also Lady Liberty. Then the idea came about of putting a woman on the $20 beginning in the year 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. Several women were finalists, but in 2015, Harriet Tubman won a poll and was originally slated to replace Hamilton on the $10, but because of the immense popularity of the play, the decision was made to then replace Jackson on the $20 a year later. Then candidate Trump in 2016 said that he thought Tubman was fantastic but opposed replacing Jackson becuase it would be “political correctness” that replaced him. In mid 2017, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that “People have been on the bills for a long period of time. This is something we’ll consider; right now we have a lot more important issues to focus on.” He also stated that any new bill wouldn’t be ready until 2026 despite engravers at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing stated that there was already a bill in the works by 2019. And according to the latest article I could find about this in 2021, the Biden administration supports Tubman on the $20 but hasn’t taken any action as of that article to make that happen. So, the future of the $20 is up in the air.
But if we remove Jackson from the $20 and replace him with someone else, where do we stop? Using the slippery slope argument (which is always a dangerous fallacy), do we rename Washington D.C. because Washington was a slave holder? Do we take Lincoln off of the penny or the $5 because he had almost 30 Indians executed during the Civil War for sparking an uprising in Minnesota? Jefferson… we won’t even get into him.
As someone in the “Rethinking History” article states, if we are going to name buildings after people, should we expect them to be perfect? Maybe we should stop naming buildings after people. Or can we learn something from these flawed individuals (especially b/c everyone is flawed in some way or another)?
Please answer the following questions:
- What are your thoughts about removing historical monuments or renaming buildings after historical figures? Why?
- I see three possible alternatives to Jackson on the $20:
- Keep him there and leave it as it is.
- Swap him out with Harriet Tubman, and leave Andrew Jackson to be talked about in history classes.
- Leave him on the bill but conduct better and more thorough education about Andrew Jackson’s legacy. (If you come up with another alternative, please include it in your post.)
For the first question which asks about whether we think that historical monuments should be removed or not, I think that historical monuments should be preserved and not taken down for many reasons. One of these reasons is that I think that even if some historical monuments have bad backgrounds they shouldn’t be removed because they are still history. I think that it is very important to remember the bad parts of history because it shapes our country today. Bad parts of history can’t be forgotten because if they are then there is no value in and backbone to our history. It shows how our country has grown and shows the progress we make. I also think that it is disrespectful to some people to take away values from our history. I think that naming buildings and streets after historical figures could be a new way to promote historical people. I think that this would show that we do still value history the way we did in the olden days. For the second question, which was our thoughts on Jefferson on the 20 dollar bill I think we should keep him on it just share more about Andrew Jackson in history classes. I think that it would be very disrespectful and ignorant to take Thomas Jefferson off of the twenty dollar bill because it would disvalue any type of recognition to him. Taking Thomas Jefferson off this bill would be showing that he did nothing and would honor him for nothing. I think that instead of taking him off the bill we just should recognize Andrew Jackson more in history classes. I think that debates like who is the better democrat between Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson would help us learn more about both because it compares them and forces people to look at the good and bad sides of each of them. Showing what Andrew Jackson did can be very beneficial because he made very great and horrible decisions. He is one person we can look at and see how much we have grown from the past to know. I think that the debate between Jefferson and Jackson is important but shouldn’t be taken out on something that is part of our economic history with Jefferson on the bill. This is why I think JUefferson should stay on the bill but Jackson should be taught more about in history classes.
I think that removing historical monuments as well as renaming things away from historical figures is only okay in certain situations. Yes, George Washington may have held slaves of his own as well as done some very awful things but he also was one of, if not the the most, important and remembered founding fathers of our country. For Instance, He was the leading Commander of the army during the Revolutionary war against Britain which later evolved into his presidency, which was the first presidency of the United states of America. So, to go as far as to try and rename the capital of our country is not only preposterous but also unpatriotic. On the flip side, national holidays like Columbus Day should totally be reevaluated and discarded because only acts of terror, pain, stealing, and suffering inflicted on the Native American Indians occurred on the day to which we remember as the so called discovering of America. This Holiday is one great example of something our national government should be taking a stronger look into replacing or renaming due to its emotional and traumatizing significance in some peoples cultures and lives today.
I believe that Andrew Jackson should be removed from the twenty dollar bill as well as replaced by Harriet Tubman. I think that the endeavors and encounters of Andrew Jackson are very important while trying to understand the beginning of our country like for instance how he paid off the National debt and also how he miraculously won the battle of New Orleans out of nowhere; these teachings should remain in the curriculums of History classes but Andrew Jackson himself should not be commemorated on the twenty dollar bill. Instead, Harriet Tubman should be showcased on the bill due to her immense amounts of bravery and sacrifice towards African Americans and their freedoms/rights in this Country. She was brave enough to not only go against the laws and beliefs of the tyrannical white’s as an African American but also as a WOMAN. This display of true heroism should be much more displayed than what it is now.
My opinion on removing historical monuments and renaming buildings after historical figures is that we as a country should decide if we think it is necessary to change this valuable part of our country. We should not remove or change monuments or buildings often, much time, consideration, and discussion should go into the decision. In order for our country to grow, we need to let go of some things that we no longer want to represent us and replace them with things that show our country’s ability to move forward and leave behind the parts of our past that are not anything to be proud of.
Regarding the topic of our options with the $20 bill, the best option which I think we should try to pursue is to swap him out with Harriet Tubman and leave Andrew Jackson to be discussed in history class. This year in APUSH I have already learned a substantial amount about Andrew Jackson, all of which was more important to know than the fact he is on the $20 bill. If Andrew Jackson was removed from the bill, at the time he’s removed he would be a common topic of conversation, and people who may only know about him to an extent may learn more, mainly the reasons for why he was removed. Both options one and three seem ineffective in my eyes. I feel as though he is talked about in classes and just setting that standard does not get us where we are trying to be. The most effective option is to remove him which is what we should want as the $20 bill is one of the symbols that represent our country. Do we want Andrew Jackson’s face on that bill to represent us? Instead, we should want Harriet Tubman who helped our country succeed in getting where we are today in the abolishing of slavery. A black woman on a $20 bill would be a huge accomplishment for our country. She would represent greatness and history. Her hopes and dedication to equality deserve to be praised over the poor decisions made as the half-man of Andrew Jackson.
I think removing historical monuments is necessary at times. There are many statues or monuments of historical figures that praise and display individuals who have done very harmful things. When it comes to confederate monuments, for example, I see the value in removing these statues and either replacing them with another figure leaving the area alone altogether. I don’t think that members of a community should have to see structures praising individuals who did things to harm their ancestors and maybe even still negatively impact them to this day. However, when it comes to removing historical monuments I think there is a fine line that we walk. May today see removing monuments as an erasure of history and not accepting our past. Though I don’t see removing monuments for previously offensive or harmful figures as erasure, I do think our country has an equal responsibility in educating people on the wrongs these people have done in addition to monument removal. I think when people are angered by taking these monuments down, some may simply be ignorant, but I think some also just truly don’t understand the true history and actions of some of these figures. This starts in schools. Giving students full pictures of the characters of people in our history, flaws and accomplishments is the only way to further people’s understanding and prevent current political leaders from being wrongly “placed on a pedestal” in the same manner in the future. It’s also important to consider that the characters of historical figures should always be discussed, but their actions are not always directly transferable to today’s context. This is something I’ve learned a lot in the first trimester of APUSH. So many of these people in our past are deeply flawed. Simply removing their monuments isn’t enough. We need to start more conversations about our country’s history and acknowledge that these people can have both done good things and have done things everyone would look down on today. I think the choice that is most feasible to our current climate is the third, leaving Jackson on the $20 bill but conducting better and more thorough education on his legacy. I see a couple issues with swapping Jackson for Harriet Tubman on this bill. One is that I think it would be very difficult to change the look of our currency and could present a number of issues. In my opinion, at this point changing the bill could do more harm than good. The uproar of people who will inevitably be upset about the change may overshadow the pushes to educate people on Jackson’s past. I also think that replacing Jackson with Harriet Tubman lacks some sincerity in a way. Similar to how I felt about replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s day, I think that the new figure or celebration shouldn’t have to hold the previous person’s place but should instead get a new one. Though we cannot just create another bill for Harriet Tubman to be on, I think she could be honored in another way as well as educating people on Jackson.
Removing historical monuments is something that is happening more and more often recently, and has become a controversial topic in America. Confederate statues and names, along with those of prominent figures from the 1800s, will always have more meaning than simply honoring a specific person for an accomplishment like being a war hero or successful general. In just about every one of these cases, the individual is deeply flawed, just as Jackson was. In the early days of American history, owning slaves was common among those with the money for it. Every white person was incredibly racist and horrible to people of color. Everyone was problematic in some sense, usually in ways we consider to overshadow the rest of someone’s characteristics today. In cases where a person mostly represents a racist or outdated idea that may be harmful to any group impacted by it, I think that monuments should be removed or replaced. For example, there were many Confederate statues being removed during the summer of 2020. Although some people claim that these statues represent the strength of the south or the fighting spirit of our nation, the real impact is the spread of racism in our country where we are trying to move away from it. In this case, the statues should be taken down. There is no reason to leave a symbol of racism, hate, and cruelty up for everyone in public to see, especially if it is not paired with a truthful educational message.
For the $20 bill, I think that replacing Jackson with Harriet Tubman isn’t a bad idea at all. Just like with old statues, Jackson represents many ideas that do not reflect what the majority of Americans feel or what we want our country to look like- for example, the fact that he owned many slaves and was cruel to Indigenous tribes. I do understand the argument that if we replace Jackson we can replace anyone on any currency- however, change has to occur in small steps, and having a woman who made an incredible impact on this country on the $20 bill instead of an old, problematic president won’t be the end of the world.
I think that the renaming of monuments or their complete removal is not only wanted by many, but necessary in some cases. I would go as far to say as the mere presence of statues of people such as prominent confederate figures is promoting the longevity and commonality of their ideals. This is evident in the deep south were even some education systems teach kids about Robert E. Lee like he’s some fantastic war hero that fought for “state rights” and people hang up the confederate flag on their houses. The removal or renaming of certain memorials is essential to be able to bury the bigoted mindsets of old idols. The major argument against the removal of these memorials in usually that taking them down is trying to “cover up history”, but I in no way advocate for the complete deletion of history for the public eye, I just think people shouldn’t need to walk past a statue praising the icons of racism during the civil war on their way to work. Less than favorable history such as these statues would be more appropriate in a museum where the remembrance of all history, whether it be good or bad, can be observed by and taught to the people in order to learn how to act in the future. But, I also think that the praising of a single person is wrong because almost all individuals from long ago had some sort of unflattering thoughts or actions. The events of the past should be looked at with an open mind and not be tainted by old opinions.
I think that replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is a good idea. Anyone whos done the slightest research on the things Jackson has done would clearly see how much of an egotistical hothead he was. Though he had done major things for the country’s economy, his rash decision making and his severe temper make him a pretty awful person to be represented on the $20 bill. I think that a women who led thousands to safety and treated complete strangers like a second mother during a dangerous time reserves her spot on the bill. Jackson’s legacy should be left to the teachings of history class.
(1). I think that the removal of historical monuments is the correct approach to this new modern-era of history. I think we, as American’s, want to justify the horrible and racial actions our ancestors have done to Native American Tribes and African American’s. There’s a very common saying that some agree with, and some oppose, “The means justifies the end”. I believe there are times where the means justify the end, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but this, in my opinion, is not one of those cases. I believe the removal of the Native American tribes was a horrible action, they don’t call it, “The Trail of Tears” for nothing. I believe that, even though many buildings or even street names have been around for a long time, the naming of these locations (not at the time) is currently undeserved in modern day times. I personally believe, even if it never happens (or never happens for a long time), that buildings should be renamed to modern day heroes, not very old racist/confederate leaders. But at the same time, I seriously doubt many buildings will be changed because when I think of a street or a building’s name, I immediately think of the location of said building/street. It think it will cause a lot of confusion at first (for finding a specific building/street), but eventually, I think it will be ok. I think that when it comes to removing historical monuments, that it should be the governments job to do so. I personally think it is vandalism when citizens take it upon themselves to de-face historical monuments, and only the government should have the power to control the renaming and removal of monuments. But at the same time, the article mentioned that the renaming of buildings and removal of historical monuments took place in 2020, the same time as the Black Lives Matter movement, which was very influential to the spike/spark in anti-confederate monuments, but most importantly… COVID-19. The government was VERY preoccupied with COVID-19 that the concerns of people’s opinions of/on confederate monuments could wait. But it’s 2022 now, I think we should remove the confederate monuments and rename buildings to important African American’s and women who not only fought for our country, but equal rights for all, no matter how hard it was. (2). I think that we should get rid of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Even though the article mentioned that the production of a new dollar-bill will take around 7 years, I think it will be worth it. We need children/people to understand that Jackson was not a good person, and doesn’t deserve the recognition and praise of people, because he not only was a slave owner, his actions caused the deaths of over 4,000 Native Americans. I think we should replace Jackson with Harriet Tubman, because not only was Jackson a bad person, Harriet Tubman is and will always be one of the bravest women of all time. Harriet Tubman’s efforts on the Underground Railroad saved hundreds of African American’s lives. Harriet Tubman DESERVES to be on the $20 bill, while Jackson does not. I think keeping him there is mocking all of the Native American’s he indirectly killed over his decision to sent them to basically no-where. I think Jackson should be taught by schools similarly how I believe Christopher Columbus should be taught; That they, while both incredibly important to the U.S. should be seen as cruel and horrible people. I suppose, as we adjust into (If we end up doing this) printing Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, we should also remind / teach people how cruel of a person Jackson was, and how someone like that doesn’t deserve to be on the $20 bill, even if he’s been on it since 1928. Many people hate breaking off from tradition, but I believe, in this case, we ought to justify the murders of many Natives Americans and African Americans though the heroism of the African American Harriet Tubman.
– Andrew Robinson
I believe that removing historical monuments or renaming buildings after historical figures is something that America should begin/continue doing. One of the main arguments against this is that in doing this, “history is erased,” but these physical monuments don’t take away the history that lies in this country. Removing statues that commemorate slave owners doesn’t erase the history involving those individuals, it just takes away the constant reminder that despite the fact that they owned and horribly abused people, they are still worshipped by many individuals in this country. It also helps with the spread of misinformation that can lead to Taking down such a statue in no way erases the actions taken by the individual, and alone will not alter any information found in American textbooks. Instead, it forces people to do actual research on these individuals, instead of just brushing off the negative actions taken by that person. People become more likely to find good actions taken by these individuals coupled with their horrible actions. This allows for more Americans to get the full picture on slave owners as well as other white individuals from American history before coming to an oftentimes biased conclusion. Additionally, the idea that removing some of these monuments would be insulting to some individuals caters to the ideal upheld by many white Americans that the feelings of white people come before the feelings of BIPOC. We see this theme time and time again throughout history, and in the present. Seeing statues of people who owned your ancestors is definitely worse than any impact that the absence of these statues could have. I don’t believe that we should get rid of every historical monument of a “bad” person from American history, because the interpretation on who was “bad” in American history feels too loose. I think we should take these monuments as they come. When awareness is spread about the depiction of a specific monument, then there should be research conducted, and taking it down should be looked into. As for renaming buildings after historical figures, this could help spread awareness about certain significant individuals throughout American history who were overshadowed by their oppressors. I believe that this country as a whole would benefit from the renaming of buildings that were initially named after slave owners, and this change would inspire Americans to do more research on it’s origins. As for whether or not we should replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the 20 dollar bill, I think that this is a great idea. It helps represent the fact that Jackson chose to be a general, and pursue any of his accomplishments, but people like Harriet Tubman were forced into that situation, and still managed to accomplish great things. Slavery, which Jackson contributed to and participated in, was so awful and unbearable that people risked their lives, and worse considering the consequences many of them faced after unsuccessfully running away, in order to escape. Beginning to print 20 dollar bills with Harriet Tubman’s face on it instead of Andrew Jackson’s will not instantly replace every $20 bill used in this country, but replacing him, just like renaming certain buildings would instead contribute to more thorough education regarding both individuals, ending in an overall positive change throughout this country.
One thing that I can definitely agree on is that renaming everything is a slippery slope. Indeed, you can’t expect people to be perfect. You also must understand they lived in a different society with different values and ideas. Taking down the monuments of George Washington to me is a little crazy. He was the first president and set dozens of presidential traditions that we still follow. No one knew what the president was going to be. Washington could’ve been president for life. Even the reason we called him president, a name that didn’t have much power to it back then, is because he wanted to be called a name that wouldn’t put him up on a pedestal. Some of the founding fathers wanted to call him “his majesty”. With that being said, Jackson is very different. He’s the man that took entire tribes and forced them off their land. He made them relocate to what was considered the worst land we owned, and as they were relocating thousands died. Not to mention he completely disregarded the supreme court, and was a massive slaveholder. While owning slaves isn’t the sole justification to take him off the 20, along with everything else it adds up, So number one is off the table. Using the picture of Harriet Tubman is in my opinion the best option. Tubman is an extremely influential black woman that is from a time in history when both black people and women were seen as lesser than white men. Despite this, she persevered and risked her life on countless occasions to help bring black people out of slavery. Putting her on the 20 would show America’s attempt to distance itself from its past. I think Andrew Jackson can be left to history classes because he was a president. He will most likely be talked about a lot regardless. Harriet Tubman however only gets talked about during black history month. And even then, it’s not a guarantee that the teacher talks about her. Because it has been proposed and proposed again, and it still hasn’t come super close to passing, maybe you could have them both on the 20. I still don’t want Andrew Jackson on the 20, but keeping him on there as well as putting Tubman on it will hopefully make most people happy.
I believe that it depends on the situation with regards to removing historical monuments. In my opinion, a historical monument of a corrupt, tyrannical, or just bad person in general definitely has substantial cause to be removed like Christopher Columbus. With that said, I think a historical monument that is just simply controversial or that some people do not like, is cause to stay in most situations because a lot of times, things are removed to silence peoples voices. Or in some cases these statues even promote horrible times in history such as many confederate statues built during the height of Jim Crow. But no matter the circumstances, there will be people that are quite unhappy with the removal of a historical statue so unless it is clearly necessary, I think we should try to refrain. Historical statues can be a source of great triumph in history, or they can highlight people who have committed unspeakable atrocities through history. An exmple of removal of historical statues being good are the many statues portraying Christopher Columbus being removed. Though not everyone agrees with this, it is a step in the right direction in acknowledging that we are living on stolen land and that Columbus committed a genocide. This and other statue removals are proving that we are starting to realize our historical faults and trying to provide at least a little bit of relief.
On the topic of the face of the $20 bill, I believe Andrew Jackson should definitely be replaced with Harriet Tubman. Replacing Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill would be a step in the right direction in publicly and widely displaying that we realize our country’s horrible history and we know we cannot make it right, but we can at least show that we are trying and not ignoring it anymore. Andrew Jackson does not represent our country’s values of today, at least what I think our values should be. Jackson was a racist, horrible president who forced countless Native Americans to leave their homes because of his own interest even after countless were killed 300 years prior. This does not show what kind of a country we should be, but rather, this perpetuates the notion that our horrible history was not that bad as we continue to ignore the atrocities of our past by supporting this horrible president. Harriet Tubman, on the other hand, represents our countries values completely. Our country was founded on the belif that a corrupt, tyrannical government must be overthrown and that it is the DUTY of the people to do so. But, apparently this only applies when the person trying to speak out against what is wrong is white. Harriet Tubman did this exactly, she was a slave who ran away to the north and eventually kept coming back to the south to free over 70 slaves. Harriet Tubman had the courage to risk her life time and time again to right a wrong and to save a life. That is what we want to be and that is why Harriet Tubman should be the face of the $20 bill instead of Andrew Jackson.