"Posterity will owe everlasting thanks to John Brown for lifting up once more to the gaze of a nation grown fat and flabby on the garbage of lust and oppression, a true standard of heroic philanthropy, and each coming generation will pay its installment of the debt. . . . John Brown saw slavery through no mist or cloud, but in a light of infinite brightness, which left no one of its ten thousand horrors concealed." Frederick Douglass

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

John Brown Coin Issued by the West African Country of Niger

According to international coin collector Joel Anderson, the nations of West Africa issued seven 2500 Franc coins in 2007, commemorating Great Britain's abolition of slavery. Anderson notes that the nation of Benin issued a coin in honor of Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa); Burkina Faso issued a coin honoring William Wilberforce; the seal of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade is on the Ivory Coast coin; a Frederick Douglass coin was issued by the nation of Mali; Senegal issued a Toussaint Louverture coin; Togo honored French abolitionist Victor Schoelcher; and Niger issued a John Brown coin. According to Anderson, because the members of the West African States utilize a common currency, they have issued few coins under their own name. The Brown coin, like the rest, is a silver Essai (pattern) and was issued privately. Each coin is 27mm in diameter, contains .25 troy oz of .999 fine silver and has a mintage of just 850 pieces. Each coin depicts an abolitionist on one side and the issuing nations arms on the other.

It should be mentioned that the United States is worlds away from issuing any kind of currency, paper or coin, commemorating any figure in the antislavery movement (apart from Alexander Hamilton, although he was hardly portrayed by reason of his abolitionist beliefs). The Haitians have a main thoroughfare named for Brown and the people of Niger have a commemorative Franc in honor of Brown, but here in the United States, we do not even have a public acknowledgment of Brown's heroism.

May we suggest that the United States consider begin to redress this problem by revising the $20 bill? Why not remove the image of Pres. Andrew Jackson, a white supremacist and replace him with Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman? Jackson is the least important figure to be pictured on U.S. currency, as well as the one with the least going for him on historical record. As he is not the kind of man that we would ever want in the White House again, it would be well for his image to be permanently retired from our currency. It is high time for an abolitionist figure to be portrayed on our money.

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