Our Thoughts

Currency, Cotton & Tubman

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While driving to Pembroke, North Carolina to screen my documentary The American South as We Know It at UNC-Pembroke, I decided to stop in Anson County, North Carolina to check out a friend named Steve Bailey who works at the Anson County Historical Society. It had been about two years since I last saw Steve, during our last encounter, we visited the former Bennett Plantation. The home used in the blockbuster film The Color Purple. I didn’t necessarily have a goal during the visit other than stopping in to say what’s up. However, like history lovers do, we started talking about local history and reviewed new items donated by individuals who have/had ties to the area.

I have ancestral ties in the area as well, so i decided to take a gander at a book containing information on the Speed family, a family who once enslaved ancestors while in North Carolina. Steve is a staunch advocate for making sure African American history is included in local history and has even made meaningful connections with African Americans who are his family members. If you are wondering…Steve is a white male.  After shooting the breeze for about 45 minutes it was time for me to get back on the road to Pembroke. Steve, as always, asked if I needed anything to drink or any additional research completed for the future. I expressed to him not at the moment, but would definitely let him know If I thought of anything. 

As I walked back to the lobby area, I noticed a glass frame that housed and preserved old money. I didn’t think much of it as I was standing a good bit away from the wall where it hanged. When stepping closer, I noticed images of enslaved and/or emancipated individuals on dollars bills of various value carrying or picking cotton. The bills were from the Bank of Wadesborough. The town is now spelled Wadesboro and is located in Anson County. The images depicted just how synonymous African Americans and cotton were/are. It should be difficult for anyone with a moral fiber in their body to drive pass a cotton field and ignore the linkage to slavery. In addition, for those who had ancestors given the task of working the cotton fields from sun up to sun down; the moment to reflect on how far we have come is essential.

During the Obama administration Harriet Tubman was chosen over 15 other potential women including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and chief Wilma Mankiller. This change would be monumental and shift the image of who is represented, and known as the standard on United States currency. It can provide little brown boys and girls, women and other marginalized groups motivation to believe they can accomplish anything in life. Unfortunately, as recent as 2017, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated “Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.” In 2016, Donald Trump under minded the noble designation of the $20.00 bill placement by stating “I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill.” Hmmm… I wonder if “another bill” would be a $200.00 bill since the $100.00 bill is of most value (HIGHLY DOUBTFUL). 

The year is now 2019 and the release date for the face transplant on the $20.00 bill STILL has not been determined. With all of the weekly drama experienced within this administration, it is easy to forget the commitment to honor a legend such as Tubman. The INTENTIONAL procrastination to defer installing the image of greatness of a woman who fought for equal rights, equity, freedom and inclusivity for the oppressed is sickening beyond measure. Hopefully this post will serve as a reminder and encourage us to keep honoring everyone who fought and are fighting for the “underdogs” in oppressive situations. 

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