Letter to the editor September 2, 2008 in response to Willamette Week editorial
On the Native American response to the new Jackson coin, let me add the objection of African Americans. Like other "forefathers" on our money, Jackson's involvement with slavery is dismissed or minimized. At best, the plantation was a genteel, paternal home to slaves; at worst, these were simply "men of their times." However, this well-known newspaper ad of Jackson's from 1804 shows a different side: "Stop the Runaway. FIFTY DOLLARS REWARD...ten dollars extra [reward], for every hundred lashes, any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred."
The reality is, Phyllis Wheatley (a slave) wrote in the early 1700s about the inconsistency of revolutionary rhetoric with slavery. Benjamin Franklin saw the light by 1750 and was an active abolitionist. But Franklin was a late-comer, as the Underground Railroad was already operating illegally. In 1787, the British Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was formed and by 1807 slavery was abolished there. These were the times Jackson was living in.
I agree with the U.S. mint: it's time for change. I'm advocating more inclusive, uplifting and less offensive images. Our money represents us, it symbolizes what we stand for--to us and to the world. Releasing a nickel named "Return to Monticello" (a slave plantation) is chilling in its message. As a new member and current Vice Chairman of the Oregon Commission on Black Affairs, I have proposed we take a position on the currency images.
Cliff Walker, Commissioner
Oregon Commission on Black Affairs
Here's the back-up research:
Quote and bio on Jackson
1804: "Stop the Runaway. FIFTY DOLLARS REWARD. Eloped from the subscriber, living near Nashville, on the 25th of June last, a Mulatto Man Slave . . . ten dollars extra [reward], for every hundred lashes, any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred."
John Brown http://www.transcendentalists.com/thoreau_plea_john_brown.htm
Benjamin Franklin renounces slavery/activism http://www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/franklin/slavery.htm
Underground railroad http://www.phillyburbs.com/undergroundrailroad/Beginnings.shtml
British Abolition http://www.anti-slaverysociety.addr.com/huk-history.htm