US Mint releases coins honoring abolitionist Harriet Tubman
(CNN) — The US Mint released commemorative coins honoring abolitionist Harriet Tubman on Thursday.
The coins include $5 gold coins, $1 silver coins and half-dollar coins that commemorate the bicentennial of her birth. This is the first time the US Mint has honored Tubman with coins, according to the agency.
“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,” US Mint Director Ventris Gibson, the first Black director of the bureau, told CNN.
“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.”
Ventris continued, “These coins embody her spirit, her perseverance, her tireless efforts, and her desire for freedom for all individuals.”
In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act into law, which directs the US Mint to issue the coins.
Born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland, Tubman escaped in 1849 and fled to Pennsylvania. She helped many enslaved Africans escape in Maryland and other states as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, a secret network of routes and safe houses for enslaved Africans escaping to freedom. During the Civil War, she served as a spy, scout, nurse and cook in the US Army. And in her later years, Tubman was involved in the women’s suffrage movement.
Gibson said the design on each coin reflects a period of Tubman’s life and her abolitionist efforts.
The silver dollar design depicts Tubman’s time as a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad; the half dollar design shows Tubman as a spy and Union nurse during the Civil War.
The $5 gold coin depicts an older Tubman “gazing confidently into the distance and towards the future” and is inscribed with Tubman’s core values, including faith and freedom, according to a description on the Mint’s website.
The release of the Tubman coins follows a renewed push by some lawmakers to have Tubman replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill after previous attempts have stalled.
In June, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat, introduced the “Woman on the Twenty Act of 2023” bill, which, if passed, would require all US $20 bills printed after December 31, 2026 to “feature a portrait of Harriet Tubman on the front face of the note.”
The Biden administration previously said it was “exploring ways to speed up” featuring Tubman on the $20 bill.
Ernestine “Tina” Martin Wyatt, Tubman’s great-great-great-grandniece, told CNN the coins honoring her aunt are “beautiful” and praised the US Mint’s commemoration of her legacy. However, Wyatt said, to see her aunt’s face on the $20 bill would make a bigger statement and be symbolic of America’s growth as a country.
“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. “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.”
“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,” she said.
CNN has reached out to the US Treasury Department and the White House for comment.
The new coins can be purchased online and in US Mint stores in Washington, DC, Denver and Philadelphia. Proceeds from the sale of the coins will go to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and the Harriet Tubman Home, according to a statement on the US Mint website.