The Washington Post‘s Wonkblog has elevated a new argument against putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill to honor her struggle against slavery: Tubman “fought the oppressive system that launched our economy” — i.e. slavery was capitalism.
In fact, capitalism and “free labor” were the alternative to slavery. (Forced labor, by contrast, is a hallmark of communism.) The Republican Party, which Tubman joined, championed the emerging industrial capitalism of the late nineteenth century.
Wonkblog’s Danielle Pacquette highlights the far-left’s argument against Tubman as if it were worthy of serious consideration without actually pointing out the fundamentally false premise at its core — that slavery “founded” American capitalism.
Instead, she quotes radicals like “Feminista Jones,” who declared on the Post op-ed page:
Harriet Tubman did not fight for capitalism, free trade, or competitive markets. She repeatedly put herself in the line of fire to free people who were treated as currency themselves. She risked her life to ensure that enslaved black people would know they were worth more than the blood money that exchanged hands to buy and sell them. I do not believe Tubman, who died impoverished in 1913, would accept the “honor.”
Tubman is to replace Andrew Jackson, the controversial Democrat and general-turned-politician who led his era’s grassroots political revolt against the Washington, D.C. elite. (Some have compared Donald Trump’s candidacy to Jackson’s own style.)
The only contrary viewpoint the Post cites is that of Harvard professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, who points out that Tubman used money to free slaves — but does not point out the obvious contradictions between slavery and capitalism.
Though some who fought slavery were critical of wage labor, and what they saw as exploitative relationships between big business and workers, they also saw free labor as the opposite of a system in which one human being could own another.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.