Harriet Tubman was a gun-toting Republican
There are some knee-jerk reactions to the seemingly "political correctness run amok" move to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, replacing President Andrew Jackson. But the replacing of the slave-owning founder of the Democratic Party with a gun-toting black Republican may spark a political debate worth having and unearth historical truths worth learning. As PJ Media described the announcement:
The first woman on United States bank notes will be the famous abolitionist and Republican Harriet Tubman, Politico reported Wednesday. She will give the boot to the nation's sixth president and a major figure in the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, on the $20 bill, and save the founder of the nation's financial system, Alexander Hamilton, from being kicked off the $10 bill.
Biographer Kate Clifford Larson notes that Harriet Tubman was no stranger to firearms, finding them a way to protect and reassure slaves she shepherded to freedom in the North, perhaps making her a founder of the “black lives matter” movement:
Harriet Tubman carried a small pistol with her on her rescue missions, mostly for protection from slave catchers, but also to encourage weak-hearted runaways from turning back and risking the safety of the rest of the group. Tubman carried a sharp-shooters rifle during the Civil War.
An image of her carrying her gun is not likely to grace the new $20 bill, nor is any mention of her being a supporter of the anti-slavery Republican Party likely to be a regular part of the mainstream media and liberal Democratic mantra.
Harriet Tubman’s image should remind Americans that gun control was a historical method to control and subjugate blacks. UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler notes in The Atlantic:
Indisputably, for much of American history, gun-control measures, like many other laws, were used to oppress African Americans. The South had long prohibited blacks, both slave and free, from owning guns. In the North, however, at the end of the Civil War, the Union army allowed soldiers of any color to take home their rifles. Even blacks who hadn’t served could buy guns in the North, amid the glut of firearms produced for the war. President Lincoln had promised a “new birth of freedom,” but many blacks knew that white Southerners were not going to go along easily with such a vision. As one freedman in Louisiana recalled, “I would say to every colored soldier, ‘Bring your gun home.’”
Winkler also notes:
The KKK began as a gun-control organization. Before the Civil War, blacks were never allowed to own guns. During the Civil War, blacks kept guns for the first time – either they served in the Union army and they were allowed to keep their guns, or they buy guns on the open market where for the first time there’s hundreds of thousands of guns flooding the marketplace after the war ends. So they arm up because they know who they’re dealing with in the South. White racists do things like pass laws to disarm them, but that’s not really going to work. So they form these racist posses all over the South to go out at night in large groups to terrorize blacks and take those guns away. If blacks were disarmed, they couldn’t fight back.
One of the key reasons for the 14th Amendment’s guarantee that blacks are equal human beings with equal rights was to protect the gun rights of freed slaves after the Civil War. This reasoning was cited in the 2010 gun rights victory won by Otis McDonald in McDonald v. Chicago. McDonald, a 76-year-old African-American Army veteran living in a high-crime area of Chicago, felt that the Second Amendment gave him the right to protect himself and is family with a gun just as he once protected his country with a gun.
The Supreme Court agreed, with Justice Samuel Alito referencing the 14th Amendment:
Alito wrote: “Evidence from the period immediately following the ratification [in 1868] of the Fourteenth Amendment only confirms that the right to keep and bear arms was considered fundamental. … In sum, it is clear that the Framers and ratifiers of the Fourteenth Amendment counted the right to keep and bear arms among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty.”….
In framing the argument that the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment should incorporate Second Amendment rights, Alito referenced post-Civil War laws that the Fourteenth Amendment intended to eliminate.
“The laws of some states formally prohibited African Americans from possessing firearms,” Alito said. “For example, a Mississippi law provided that ‘no freedman, free negro or mulatto, not in the military service of the United States government, and not licensed so to do by the board of police of his or her county, shall keep or carry firearms of any kind, or any ammunition, dirk or bowie knife."
Harriet Tubman supported the Republican Party because it opposed slavery. She carried a gun because it protected the liberty and freedom of herself and those she delivered to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Just as Democrats sought to enslave and disarm blacks back then, they now seek to entrap them in high-crime urban areas run by liberal Democrats who seek to deny them, and the rest of us, the right to keep and bear arms.
Go ahead and put Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 bill – the one showing the Republican leading slaves to freedom with a gun in her hand.
Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.