Harriet Tubman & US Currency

While there is no historical evidence that Harriet Tubman ever actually said the words in the headline, there is ample evidence that she had little interest in the limelight and absolutely zero tolerance for wishy-washy, indecisive, half-stepping people on the road to freedom.

“…I could have freed a thousand more if
only they knew they were slaves…”

While there is no historical evidence that Harriet Tubman ever actually said the words in the headline, there is ample evidence that she had little interest in the limelight and absolutely zero tolerance for wishy-washy, indecisive, half-stepping people on the road to freedom.

I’ve got to believe that she would greet the news that her face will soon be on the U.S. Treasury’s $20 bill with a shrug and ask “…can we use it to buy our freedom?’ Of course we’ve come a long way since the issue of our freedom has been settled, but we’re no where near any resolution on the question of Black America’s economic foundation. Tubman’s face on the new $20 won’t do a thing to change that. Like most of you I understand the symbolism, but I stop short of calling a Black icon’s image on paper currency a breakthrough.

When federal contract awards to Black-owned businesses are shrinking, when the wealth gap between Black families and practically every other slice of American demography is growing, when employers do all they can to defeat legislation that would mandate a true living wage, it should be clear that no matter whose face is on the Treasury bills, Black Americans are seeing fewer of them! That’s a problem that a feel-good demonstration won’t fix.

The U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. works hard to help Black American businesses grow, propelled by the belief that healthy, vibrant Black-owned businesses will result in healthy, vibrant Black communities. I’ll acknowledge that sometimes we feel like Harriet Tubman must have felt when clouds covered the moon and her tired, scared charges on the lonely road to freedom wanted to turn back… afraid of the unknown.

Black America in 2016 literally cannot afford to freeze on the trail to financial freedom. We need to spend more of our dollars in our community supporting local Black-owned businesses. Affordable housing options, educational opportunities, access to adequate healthcare and healthy food choices are the freedoms that hang in the balance today. Reduced unemployment, reduced incarceration, reduced gentrification, reduced dropouts will follow from increased contracting opportunities, increased profitability, increased access to capital and increased access to expanded markets.

So, like everyone else, we are thrilled that America is coming to grips with the horrors of its racist history. We are thrilled that there are efforts underway to correct the blatant omissions in this country’s true historical record.
But, we are absolutely certain that changing the faces on paper money has no value unless there is a corresponding increase in opportunities to earn those dollars.

I believe Harriet Tubman would agree…

In the Spirit of Success,

Ron Busby, Sr.
USBC President & CEO
U.S. Black Chambers, Inc

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