”We all owe Harriet Tubman a huge debt of gratitude because I, and so many others, would not be where we are today if not for her heroism, her passion for freedom for our people and for her service to this country,” U.S. Mint Director Ventris Gibson, the first Black director of the bureau, told CNN.
She continued, “At the Mint, we like to say that coins are miniature canvases of art, and the Harriet Tubman coins are truly stunning works of art. These coins embody her spirit, her perseverance, her tireless efforts, and her desire for freedom for all individuals.”
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Tubman, who was also a nurse and Union spy, would put her life on the line to help other enslaved individuals pass through what became known as the “Underground Railroad” — a network of routes, people, and places that led them up north to states such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, where they would find freedom.
The coins released by the Mint were designed to showcase various moments in Tubman’s life and her efforts to free slaves, according to Gibson.
For example, the U.S. Mint’s website notes the coins will highlight Tubman’s period as a scout and spy for the Union Army (half coin); her role as a “conductor” of the Underground Railroad (silver coin); and life following the Civil War ($5 coin).
There has been interest by some lawmakers to place Tubman on the $20 bill, replacing seventh U.S. President Andrew Jackson. CNN reports the Biden administration was “exploring ways to speed up” the proposal to have Tubman on the $20 bill.
The gesture would be meaningful, according to Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt.
“The coins are fabulous but that $20 bill, for me, represents something greater about who she was and what she gave to the United States,” Wyatt said to CNN. “She is a symbol of true democracy in this country, and we have to pay attention to the symbols that we want to represent it.”
She continued, “A $20 bill, you’re exchanging that all the time, you’re seeing that all the time…That’s where the symbolism really is important because symbolism in this country started with that dollar bill.”
The coins are available for purchase online and in U.S. Mint store locations with proceeds going to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Harriet Tubman Home, the U.S. Mint website shares.