Hooray for Harriet!!!

harriet-tubman-20-dollar-bill

The U.S. Treasury took a while, didn’t it?   Well..at least the ball is rolling.

Sometime around 2020 it will unveil a new design for the $20 bill…with abolitionist Harriet Tubman front and center..literally.   An historic move to say the least.  It has been a mere century since a woman (Martha Washington) appeared on American paper  money.  Tubman’s appearance is the first for an African American on currency.

Our nation’s 7th president Andrew Jackson is not going away.   His image will move to the rear of the bill.  That will create an interesting dichotomy.  On the front of the 20, a woman who led slaves to freedom.   On the back, a man who owned them.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and thank you if you are), you may remember a while back that I posted a piece about the final options to appear of the $20 note.   If you don’t remember it, you can read it by clicking here.

That wasn’t all the news from the Treasury.  Alexander Hamilton will remain the face on the $10 bill.  I wonder how much the popularity of the Broadway musical ‘Hamilton’ actually played in that decision.   If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard the back story of this musical, CBS Sunday Morning’s Mo Rocca pulled back the curtain before the show hit Broadway.

On the back of the 10 will be a tribute to the key women who led the suffragist movement securing women the right to vote.

The rear of the $5 bill will also change..from just a static shot of the Lincoln Memorial to also commemorating some key historic events there.  Most notably are Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech and black opera singer Marian Andersen’s performance.

The takeaway is this.   America is inclusive.  America is diverse.  But, one of the last places where that diversity was not reflected was on U.S. paper currency.

It’s about time.

 

 

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Postscript On The Confederate Flag

South Carolina has moved to put this episode behind it.  I shall do the same…following this post.

I did not see the ceremony to retire the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina State House grounds.  I happened to have a doctor’s appointment at that time.  My wife snapped the photos you’ll see in this space from the live TV coverage.

flagfly Courtesy: KReative Works/CBS News

In my recent memory..there are two events I said I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.  One is an African-American president.  The other is the permanent lowering of the Confederate flag in the Palmetto State.   Last Friday’s transfer of the banner to a state museum relic room needed to happen…because the state could not move forward without it.

Since the Emanuel A.M.E. Church tragedy in Charleston, the flag has been nothing but divisive.  It is true that it has an indelible place in the history of America.  I will even venture to say that had there not been a Civil War, I hesitate to think of what quality of life I would have right now.  But its association with support of slavery..and representative misuse by entities like the KKK have forever overshadowed the pride that many white Southerners have in a cause their ancestors volunteered to fight and die for (whatever it may be).

flagvictory Courtesy:  KReative Works/CBS News

Many African-Americans do consider it a victory.  But really..the entire state should see it as such.  Since the “retirement”, we have seen the NCAA lift its ban on championship events in the state.  Since NCAA men’s basketball tournament sites are set through 2018, I think it’s a reasonably good bet you may see a South Carolina city as a regional site host in 2019.   Also..just this past weekend, the NAACP ended its 15 year economic boycott of South Carolina.

flagfurl Courtesy:  KReative Works/CBS News

Now that the flag has been ceremoniously folded and put away, it will be interesting to see what happens on May 10th, 2016.  That is Confederate Memorial Day in South Carolina — as is decreed by state law.

Will those hard feelings rise again?   It’s likely.

But for now…South Carolinans should do as (rapidly rising political star) Gov. Nikki Haley asks:  reflect, come together…and heal.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

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“For Why!!??”  you ask.

The answer:  Perhaps because it’s about time.

In recorded U.S. history, only one woman has appeared on American paper money.  Martha Washington’s picture was on $1 silver certificates back in the 1880’s.  Since then it’s been all men..all the time (and not all presidents).

There is a movement afoot to put a woman on the U.S. $20 bill — and bid farewell to the face of our 7th president Andrew Jackson — a renowned American military hero.   But why give Andy the ol’ shoe dance?   According to the website Women On 20s, there are two reasons:

1. Jackson’s support of Congressional action to remove Native Americans from their southeastern land to make room for European settlers.  The Indian Removal Act of 1830 is commonly referred to by historians and Native Americans as “The Trail of Tears”.

2. Jackson’s preference of gold and silver coin currency over the central banking system model of paper money displays — for many — the irony of having Jackson’s image on U.S. currency today.

A list of 15 women were in the first round of voting,  That has since been reduced to a final four.  Among those that didn’t make the cut were: veteran of the dollar coin Susan B. Anthony (abolitionist and suffragist), Clara Barton (creator of the American Red Cross), Shirley Chisolm (1st Black woman elected to Congress) and controversial choice Margaret Sanger (founder of Planned Parenthood).

No…Oprah was not in the running!

Below are the four finalists — one of which will be submitted to the White House for consideration to appear on the $20 bill.  The descriptions are from the Women on 20s site.  They are (alphabetically):

 

1. Wilma Mankiller

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Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and first elected female Chief of a Native nation in modern times. Her 10-year administration, from 1985-1995, revitalized the Nation through extensive community development, self-help, education and healthcare programs for the Cherokee Nation’s 300,000 citizens. Read more.

 

2. Rosa Parks

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Saluted by Congress as the “first lady of civil rights,” she challenged racial segregation by refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. Her arrest, and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott, became symbols in the struggle for racial equality and civil rights in the United States.

 

3. Eleanor Roosevelt

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Redefined the role of First Lady. Used her newspaper column, radio and speeches to champion civil and women’s rights, often in opposition to her husband FDR’s policies. As a UN delegate and “First Lady of the World,” she drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

4. Harriet Tubman

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Born a slave, she fled North to freedom, later making 19 trips back to the South as an Underground Railroad conductor, leading some 300 slaves to freedom. A nurse during the Civil War, she served the Union army as a scout and spy. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement after the war.

 

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on who the choice should be, if there’s someone who was left out, or — perhaps — if there should even be a choice at all.

Ready..   Set..   Discuss.

 

 

 

 

(Bull)dogged By Troubles at South Carolina State

It would be such a shame.

South Carolina has only one state-funded historically black university.   South Carolina State University in Orangeburg has taken pride in its heritage of educating African-American students from across the state and nation and..as its mission statement says..prepares “highly skilled, competent and socially aware graduates to enable them to work and live productively in a dynamic, global society”.

scstate

As of late..money problems have put the university’s future maybe not in doubt — but certainly in question.

The school is more than $23 million in debt, has had six presidents since 1986, and has a campus which — for the most part — looks like you’ve stepped back in time a couple of decades (save a few renovations of dining halls and the football stadium).  I haven’t visited the school in many years, but I’m sure the changes have been few.

The school’s leaders recently asked the South Carolina General Assembly to erase the school’s deficit.  For the record..legislators only granted the school a bump of slightly more than a million dollars  in its new budget.

School trustees have also recently passed a plan to kick off a $20 million fund drive.  As my wife points out..with a $23 million dollar deficit, what makes you think you CAN raise $20 million?

There was also a plan in the works (and supported by some legislators) to shut down the school for anywhere from one to two academic years to allow it to financially reorganize (although there are signs of legislators backing off of that).   Here’s a question:  What happens to the current students…the FUTURE students?  What happens if the school never re-opens?

Legislators want the current board of trustees out — lock, stock and barrel.  That board would be replaced with a new overseeing board to be selected by Gov. Nikki Haley and legislative leaders

To me…the first thing that needs to be done is to stabilize the university’s leadership.  And I would agree with one of SCSU’s most influential alumni, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, that someone one with solid financial acumen be hired for the job.   Clyburn was quoted in The Herald referring to the Harvard-educated investment banker,  Patricia Miller Zollar, that leads North Carolina A&T’s board of trustees:

“Put some people down there who are not political hacks,” Clyburn said. “Put some people down there who understand what this is all about.

Here’s another option to perhaps consider down the road (and I offer this without knowing how financially feasible and how fast it can happen).  The University of South Carolina has seven schools in its system – among them USC-Upstate, USC-Beaufort, USC-Salkahatchie and the like.  What about an eighth?  If South Carolina brings SCSU under its umbrella, it can then use its resources to improve infrastructure, attract faculty and keep a tighter rein on the purse strings.

There is  public relations benefit here.   Imagine the positive press that will come with South Carolina — long mired in the controversy of flying the confederate flag over its statehouse — becoming the caretaker (and perhaps savior) of a historically black college.

There is also the economic benefit.  An article from late last year in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat puts the annual economic impact of SC State on Orangeburg at $187 million.  You can read that article here.

Something to think about.   Like I said at the top…to let the problems continue would be a shame.

 

 

 

Reflections of Selma: A Commemoration Like Few Others

Recently I returned from my first road assignment for FOX News Radio covering the 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration of “Bloody Sunday” in Selma, Alabama.   For the many who showed up for the festivities, the focal point was the iconic Edmund Pettus Bridge — where 600 African-American marchers peacefully crossed into Selma only to be met with violence.

bridge

What was impressive to me in my time there is — during what was clearly an important observance for black Americans,  there were a surprisingly large number of white Americans who also showed up to mark this “anniversary”   I put the word in quotes because I think of anniversaries as events we want to remember for the joy of it.  While remembering what happened at Selma is important, it is more accurately an event we should remember for the lessons it teaches us about tolerance and free speech.

President Obama spoke eloquently at the commemoration event on Saturday.  He was introduced by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) who was one of the 500 in 1965.   The president said that it’s not often that you follow the remarks of one of your heroes..but on this day he did.  His reverence was evident and very heartfelt.

I got the chance to chat one-on-one with a man by the name of Joe Nathan Jones.  He was also one of the 600 in 1965.  When I met him, he was shaking hands and posing for pictures in front of a 50-year-old photo of himself caring for a woman who was one of the 17 people hospitalized after the violent exchange,

jones

He said he felt gratified that people remember the event..and that so many people made the pilgrimage to Selma to honor what they had done,   Jones the only thing they felt they were doing at the time was the right thing.  He says — even though he lives in Florida now — he wanted to come back to celebrate the change they brought…up to and including paving the way for the first African-American president in American history.

The culmination came Sunday (3/8) when an estimated 80,000 jammed into the quaint downtown area of Selma to cross over the Pettus Bridge,

march

It was a sight to behold.

What I took from this event is a greater appreciation of the people who paved the way for me and my generation.  The sacrifice they made back then was for the greater good of humanity,  Yet..even today, instances like the deadly police-involved deaths in Ferguson, MO and Staten Island, NY leave us thinking there is still a chasm of misunderstanding between the races to be bridged.

Maybe one day we’ll all be on the same page..relegating “Bloody Sunday” to the history books forevermore.