A Bookstore Owner Wants To Make Harriet Tubman Day A Federal Holiday

Rob Rabena for Visit Philadelphia

Jeannine Cook, the owner of Philadelphia bookstore Harriett’s Bookshop, is spearheading efforts to make Harriet Tubman Day a federal holiday.

Cook, who opened her store in February 2020, named it after the American hero who was also an advocate for women’s rights. She sells books by women authors, activists, and artists. The store’s namesake, Harriet Tubman, was known as the “Moses of her people.” She was enslaved, escaped, and helped others gain their freedom on the Underground Railroad.

So far, Cook has gathered over 8,000 signatures on a petition calling for Tubman to be the first American woman to be honored with such a distinction. According to NBC News, she also gives out blank postcards to customers at her bookstore so they can write their representatives in support of this cause.

Of the 12 federal holidays currently recognized, only one, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honors a Black person. Juneteenth, the most recently added federal holiday, commemorates the end of slavery.

In March, Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., introduced a bill to make Harriet Tubman Day a federal holiday. The bill is co-sponsored by five Democratic representatives but is not scheduled for a vote.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush declared March 10 as Harriet Tubman Day after Congress passed a resolution urging its establishment. However, it wasn’t made a federal holiday. Cook and other supporters believe Tubman’s life and legacy deserve further recognition nationally.

“It’s the multifacetedness of Harriet that I find so extraordinary,” Cook told NBC News. “There were so many ways she, I believe, exemplifies how to take the worst of what society has offered and to transmutate that into an immense amount of power — not for yourself, but for the people around you,” she said.

Although there is not yet a federal holiday in her honor, Tubman has received other honors. President Barack Obama launched the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park in Maryland in 2013. And in 2017, Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in New York opened.

However, plans to put Tubman’s likeness on the $20 bill in place of President Andrew Jackson’s have repeatedly stalled since first confirmed in 2016. She will not appear on the bill until 2030.


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