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Carson, Trump say Tubman belongs on $2 bill rather than replace “tremendous president”
Donald Trump and his former Republican presidential rival Ben Carson have both questioned plans to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
Mr Trump, fresh off a thumping primary win in New York, said the move was ‘pure political correctness’, while Mr Carson, who is now a campaign surrogate for the billionaire echoed his sentiment.
‘I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic,’ Mr Trump said during a town hall event broadcast live on NBC’s ‘Today’ show, but ‘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.’
‘I don’t like seeing it,’ he added. ‘Yes, I think it’s pure political correctness.’
Trump defended Andrew Jackson, the former US president and father of the Democratic Party, despite his history as a slave-owner.
Jackson is also reviled by descendants of American Indians as the architect of an Indian removal policy in 1838 and 1839 that required the migration of native tribes in a forced march that killed than 10,000 – an event known as the Trail of Tears.
The seventh U.S. president also, however, was the only American leader to be held as a prisoner of war, the only one to retire the entire national debt, and the first to be targeted for assassination.
‘Andrew Jackson had a great history,’ Trump argued on Thursday, ‘and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. Andrew Jackson had a record of tremendous success for the country … and really represented somebody that really was very important to this country.’
Mr Carson meanwhile told Fox Business: ‘I love Harriet Tubman. I love what she did, but we can find another way to honor her. Maybe a $2 bill.
‘Andrew Jackson… was a tremendous president. I mean, Andrew Jackson was the last president who actually balanced the federal budget, where we had no national debt.’
Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, has also voiced his unhappiness at President Jackson being displaced.
‘United States history is not Andrew Jackson versus Harriet Tubman,’ he said in a statement. ‘It is Andrew Jackson and Harriet Tubman, both heroes of a nation’s work in progress towards great goals.
‘It is unnecessary to diminish Jackson in order to honor Tubman. Jackson was the first common man to be elected president. He fought to save the Union. He defined an American era. He helped found the Democratic Party. And he was a great Tennessean.’
Ted Cruz, Mr Trump’s closest rival for the Republican nomination, has yet to comment on Tubman but came close to predicting it as far back as September.
When asked which woman he’d like to see on the $10 bill, he suggested keeping Alexander Hamilton and bumping Jackson for civil rights figure Rosa Parks.
The redesign of the $20 note, announced by Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary, on Wednesday, signals the first time an African-American has featured on a US paper note.
It will see Mr Jackson moved to the back of the bill, with Miss Tubman on the front.
Thomas Jefferson is currently on the lesser spotted $2 bill.
Miss Tubman was born into slavery in the early part of the 19th century but managed to escape.
She then used the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to transport other slaves to freedom.
After the Civil War, Miss Tubman, who died in 1913, became active in the campaign for women’s suffrage.
The change comes after the treasury announced plans to replace Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, on the $10 bill with a woman.
They decided to keep Mr Hamilton after both supporters and women’s groups championed for the $20 bill to be changed to incorporate a woman instead.
A group called Women on 20s then organized a survey to select an appropriate figure.
Over the course of 10 weeks, the group collected 600,000 votes and Miss Tubman came out on top.
Civil rights hero Rosa Parks, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Wilma Mankiller – the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation – were among some of the other popular figures in the vote.
The $5 bill will also undergo change. The illustration of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the will be redesigned to feature civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech on the steps of the memorial in 1963.
It will also include Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt. Anderson, an African-American opera singer, gave a concert at the memorial in 1939 after she had been blocked from singing at the then-segregated Constitution Hall. The Lincoln Memorial concert was arranged by Mrs. Roosevelt.
The $10 bill is the next note on Treasury’s redesign calendar, and it aims introduce updated protections against counterfeiting.
That redesign was scheduled to be unveiled in 2020, which marks the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Lew had often cited that connection as a reason to put a woman on the $10 bill.
Tubman’s presence on the bill may be down to the efforts of Sofia, an 11-year-old girl from Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sofia wrote to Barack Obama in 2014 after a school project on historic American heroes.
‘I realized no women had their face on our currency, so I went home and wrote the letter,’ she told WCVB.
The schoolgirl demanded to know why there were no women on US bills, as ‘if there were no women, there wouldn’t be men’.
She added that there were ‘many women could be on dollars/ coins for the United States because of the important things they have done’, and even provided a list of suggestions which included Emily Dickinson, Abigail Adams, Michelle Obama and Harriet Tubman.
Obama later wrote back calling her proposal ‘a good idea’ and praising the girl as ‘pretty impressive.’