Massachusetts Church Stamps $20 Bills From Offering Plate With Harriet Tubman’s Face

A U.S. $20 bill from the offering plate at Hope Central Church in Boston is stamped with the face of abolitionist Harriet Tubman on June 2, 2019. RNS photo by Aysha Khan

Three years ago, the Treasury Department announced that it would put Harriet Tubman’s face on the front of the $20 bill by 2020. A portrait of the abolitionist, championed by activists, would replace that of President Andrew Jackson, who would be moved to the back of the bill.

Then, two weeks ago, the government walked back its plan. The image’s redesign likely would not come up until 2028, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared.

But that didn’t end the matter at Hope Central Church in Boston. “The U.S. Treasury said they will not,” Pastor Laura Ruth Jarrett told her congregation in the city’s diverse Jamaica Plain neighborhood this week. “And we say we will.”

Hope Central Church in Boston, on
1June 2, 2019. RNS photo by Aysha Khan

Since May 2, the church, affiliated with the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ, has been stamping all $20 bills from its offering plates with Tubman’s face. It is, Jarrett said, a “worthy replacement.”

“I’m taking such pleasure in this. Mr. Trail of Tears, gone!” laughed Ann Potter, who counts offerings for HCC, as she covered the former president’s face on bill after bill. “Andrew Jackson is not my favorite president.”

Records show that Jackson, the country’s seventh president and a staunch anti-abolitionist, owned as many as 160 slaves. His role in the forced relocation of an estimated 60,000 Native Americans, in part to expand U.S. slave ownership and make room for more plantations, led to the death of tens of thousands of native people. More than 4,000 Cherokees, who nicknamedhim “Indian killer,” died on their march west along the Trail of Tears.

Tubman, who was chosen from thousands of nominations as the new face of the $20 bill, would have become the first African American on paper money. The addition of Tubman to the bill was planned for next year, to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America.

After Tubman escaped the Maryland plantation where she was born into slavery, she returned to the South to help hundreds of other enslaved people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Later, she worked as a Union spy during the Civil War.

A U.S. $20 bill is stamped with the face of abolitionist Harriet Tubman at Hope Central Church in Boston, on June 2, 2019. RNS photo by Aysha Khan

Congregant Marylou Steeden said she has noticed the number of $20 bills in the church’s Sunday plate increase since the church began stamping them. On Sunday (June 2), after their Ascension Day service, they collected eight $20 bills.

“Everyone who does this just gets giddy about it,” Steeden said. “It just feels so good, like a little rebellion.”

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Source: Religion News Service