Michael O'Malley Interviewed about Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill

Michael O'Malley Interviewed about Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill

Professor Michael O'Malley was recently interviewed by the radio program Knowledge@Wharton about Harriet Tubman being selected for the new $20 bill. O'Malley is the author most recently of Face Value: the Entwined History of Race and Money in America (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Knowledge@Wharton is a daily, call-in business interview program, broadcasting from The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Here is the beginning of the interview. You can read or listen to the whole interview here.

Knowledge@Wharton: What was your reaction to this announcement, which was made by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew?


Michael O’Malley: I was delighted. I think she’s a good figure. Historians disagree about whom they might pick. There are lots of people you could pick. The idea that it has to be a particular general or a particular president is relatively new.

Knowledge@Wharton: But what about some of the other people out there? As important as this move is in terms of recognizing the contributions of women and African-Americans, isn’t there still more that could be done?

O’Malley: It’s one thing you can do. I think you could have a didactic message. In a roundtable that I was at this summer, Secretary Lew pointed out that there’s a lot of real estate on the back of the bill and most people don’t know what’s on there. You could have a little mural or almost a graphic novel representation of American history. Now that they’re used for static symbolism, they could be used for educational purposes.