Later this year, Jeff Wasserstrom and I are going to collaborate on a third edition of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know*, so we’ve started making notes on parts of the book that will need updating. With this week’s announcement that Andrew Jackson will no longer be the face of the $20, we’ll have to revise a few paragraphs in which we compare him to Chairman Mao—saying, essentially, that both are figures with decidedly mixed historical legacies yet have retained symbolic positions of some importance in their respective countries (Mao much more than Jackson, obviously). Jeff and I traded some emails about how the forthcoming currency redesign changes our take on things, and have turned those thoughts into a short commentary at The Diplomat:
The decision to remove Andrew Jackson’s face from the front of the $20 bill reflects a willingness to acknowledge that the United States does not have one singular shared historical narrative—and to question, as Chinese leaders are loathe to do, the way important and traumatic parts of the past have been treated. Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, whose portrait will replace Jackson’s on the front of the $20 bill, obviously experienced the mid-19th century quite differently than Jackson and his fellow white male Southerners. And although the $5 and $10 bills will continue to feature Great White Men of American History (including the newly beloved Alexander Hamilton) on their faces, the reverse sides of both will become more diverse, with the addition of suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, opera singer Marian Anderson, and civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read the whole thing here.
*Amazon Associates link; I get credit if you buy.