Twenty Dollars and Change places Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy in a long tradition of resistance, illuminating the ongoing struggle to realize a democracy in which her emancipatory vision prevails.
America is in the throes of a historic reckoning with racism, with the battle for control over official narratives at ground zero. Across the country, politicians, city councils, and school boards are engaged in a highly polarized debate about whose accomplishments should be recognized, and whose point of view should be included in the telling of America’s history.
In Twenty Dollars and Change, political scientist Clarence Lusane, author of the acclaimed The Black History of the White House, writes from a basic premise: Racist historical narratives and pervasive social inequities are inextricably linked—changing one can transform the other. Taking up the debate over the future of the twenty-dollar bill, Lusane uses the question of Harriet Tubman vs. Andrew Jackson as a lens through which to view the current state of our nation's ongoing reckoning with the legacies of slavery and foundational white supremacy. He places the struggle to confront unjust social conditions in direct connection with the push to transform our public symbols, making it plain that any choice of whose life deserves to be remembered and honored is a direct reflection of whose basic rights are deemed worthy of protection, and whose are not.
"Engaging and insightful, Twenty Dollars and Change illuminates the grassroots effort to have our national currency reflect the diversity of America and all of its citizens—those ordinary and extraordinary people who have stood up and demanded freedom, equality and justice. A must read!"—Kate Clifford Larson, author of Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Foreword by Kali Holloway
I. TWENTY DOLLARS
One: Symbolism Matters
Two: Harriet Tubman Represents Solidarity, Struggle, and Genuine Democracy
Three: Andrew Jackson’s Face Is a Meme for White Supremacy
Four: The Movement to Transform the Faces on U.S. Currency
Five: The Tubman Twenty—Black Support and Opposition
Six: Conservative Hostility to the Tubman Twenty
II. AND CHANGE
Seven: Fear of a Diverse America
Eight: From 1619 to Covid-19, Racism is a Pre-existing Condition
Nine: The George Floyd Catalyst
Ten: Abolishing Symbols of White Supremacy
Eleven: Black Voters Matter
Conclusion: Good Trouble and a Harriet Tubman–Inspired Future
About the Author
"Dr. Clarence Lusane’s recently published Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriett Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, walks us through the history of the faces that adorn American currency and all the arguments for and against Tubman’s ascension to be the face of the twenty. He adroitly covers a vast historical landscape with poetry and precision and places the “Tubman Debate” into the context of current racial hierarchies and politics."—Romi Mahajan, Countercurrents
"Thoughtfully balanced and nuanced, Twenty Dollars and Change explores the ways that American hero and national icon Harriet Tubman resonates across racial, gender, and political divides. Lusane captures not only the significance of historic symbols, but how winning the fight over representation and memory advances the ongoing struggles for racial justice and democracy right now." —Janell Hobson, editor of Ms. Magazine's Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Project and author of When God Lost Her Tongue: Historical Consciousness and the Black Feminist Imagination
"Twenty Dollars and Change offers a metaphor about two Americas: one striving to live up to its promise of justice and liberty, and the other mired in the bloody legacy of white supremacy. The historical arc Lusane provides demonstrates that the freedom struggle changes its cast of characters over time, but never forsakes its hope for liberation. A great and refreshing read."—Loretta Ross, author of Calling In the Calling Out Culture
"Twenty Dollars and Change travels the back alleys of fear of racist white America. . . .Harriet Tubman’s image on the money is an opportunity to establish the symbol of democracy she wanted, one where actions led by a conceived idea of being inferior or superior are crushed. Clarence Lusane has put it where the goats can get it. An extraordinary and wonderful book."—Tina Wyatt, great-great-great grandniece of Harriet Tubman, co-founder of Harriet Tubman Day, Washington D.C.
"In this original and brilliantly conceived book, acclaimed political scientist Clarence Lusane offers an incisive analysis of how racism and inequality shaped—and continues to shape—American society."—Keisha N. Blain, coeditor, Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
"Twenty Dollars and Change is a future-gazing guide to who we must be to become who we claim to be." —Kali Holloway, columnist for The Nation and The Daily Beast (from the foreword)
"Urgent and inspiring, Twenty Dollars and Change should compel the U.S. Treasury to make real our core value of equality for all with currency images that honor the contributions and humanity of African Americans, Native Americans, women, and all marginalized people of this country. Dr. Lusane sees Tubman as a Founding Mother of American democracy yet to come, and offers a persuasive case how a new twenty and change can get us there sooner.”—Barbara Ortiz Howard, Founder of “Women on 20s”
"Twenty Dollars and Change offers powerful analyses of race and U.S. history and our present crucible moment. . . . A must read." —Barbara Ransby, author of Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century
"As challenges to racial justice, women's rights, and democracy itself intensify, Lusane's sober and historically rooted analysis provides much needed clarity and insight. . . .Twenty Dollars and Change is exactly the book we need at this moment."—Karen Bass, Mayor of Los Angeles, CA
"Clarence Lusane reminds us that we all can contribute enormously to a more perfect society based on the dignity, diversity, and democracy of the peoples. In that spirit, and with great clarity and integrity, Lusane calls on us to wake up, fight back, and never back down until justice prevails." —Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne Hodulgee Muscogee), Writer, Editor, Curator, Native Indigenous Rights Advocate, and Recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
"Lusane teaches us of the starkly contrasting lives of Tubman and Jackson, and captures blow-by-blow the intricacies of the struggles over changing currency before connecting them to broader ones in the moment of Donald Trump and George Floyd."—David Roediger, author of Working Toward Whiteness: How America's Immigrants Became White
"Clarence Lusane's Twenty Dollars and Change is truly impressive—a genuinely sweeping work.” —Tom Engelhardt, editor of TomDispatch, and author of A Nation Unmade by War