kottke.org posts about Amy Davidson

Put Harriet Tubman on the $20 billJul 15 2015

Harriet Tubman

Adding her voice to a chorus of others, Amy Davidson makes a great case for putting Harriet Tubman on the US $20 bill and kicking Andrew Jackson to the curb.

On September 17, 1849, Araminta, who now called herself Harriet, ran away to freedom, along with two of her brothers. Their owner, Eliza Brodess-Pattison's granddaughter-in-law-had been making moves to sell them, and the fear was that the family would be broken up. Brodess put an ad in the local newspaper, offering a hundred-dollar reward each for "Minty," Harry, and Ben. (The only extant copy of the ad was found in 2003, in a dumpster.) Almost immediately, Tubman began making trips back to Maryland, organizing the escapes of relatives, friends, and scores of other slaves, often just ahead of armed men pursuing them. On one trip, she discovered that her husband, John Tubman, who was free himself, was living with another woman; he had no interest in going north. He is a man who seems not to have known Tubman's worth.

When I was a kid, I read a lot of biographies1 on people like Ben Franklin, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, and the Wright brothers. My favorite, which I read at least three times, was Ann Petry's Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad. Tubman is one of history's greatest badasses. Put her on the damn bill.

  1. Our local public library had a series of biographies for kids...I wish I could remember what these books were. I did a little research just now but nothing came up. I remember them being small (hardcovers but the size of paperbacks), no dust jackets, and plainly titled (e.g. "Abraham Lincoln"). There were around 50 titles and must have been 20-30 years old when I read them in the early 80s. I devoured them as a kid and would love to pass them along to my kids.

Risk, politics, and texting WeinersJun 09 2011

This is a very smart take on the Anthony Weiner situation from Amy Davidson at the New Yorker. Davidson argues that Weiner's recent sextual actions are politically relevant because they demonstrate that he's not very good at evaluating risk.

Measuring risk is what politicians do for a living -- from when they decide to run, to voting to hire policemen or teachers or to go to war. One doesn't want them to be completely, or even mostly cautious: politicians who never say anything that causes anyone to cringe, and never take a political risk, are useless. [...] That is why it is, sad to say, a matter of legitimate interest that Weiner's wife was pregnant when he sent those tweets. It widens our sense of just how careless he is with the lives of others, particularly those of people who are more vulnerable than he is. That is good to know about a politician; it is distinct from the question of whether someone who lies to his wife will lie to the public and, I'd argue, is more important.

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