They have both done their part for science or society, earned their place in every encyclopedia and have been dead for exactly 100 years. But which of these two really changed the course of history? This time: Harriet Tubman Vs. J.P. Morgan
Died: March 10, 1913
Known for: Leading more than 70 slaves to freedom in the North along the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses set up by freed slaves and abolitionists.
Was that it? Hardly. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Tubman returned to the South as a spy and scout for the Union Army. Two years later, she became the first woman in American history to lead an armed assault. Tubman served as a key advisor during the “Combahee River Raid”, an operation in which 700 slaves were rescued.
Who didn’t like her? Pretty much everyone who supported the Confederation. According to a popular legend there was even a bounty of US$40,000 for Tubman’s capture. Most historians agree this amount iis innacurate, but there was surely a price on her head.
Anything named after her? Yes, about a dozen of schools, a stamp, and a few museums. Also, a survey at the end of the 20th century named her as the third most famous civilian in American history before the Civil War.
Died: March 31, 1913
Known for: Morgan was one of the most influential bankers of his time, who dominated American corporate finance and industrial consolidation for decades. He invested in pretty much everything, from Thomas Edison’s electric company to railroads and steel companies to insurance firms.
Was he successful? He sure was. At the time of his death he had an estate worth $80 million (today around $1.2 billion). Compared some of his contemporaries, especially Rockefeller, this wasn’t even that impressive. In fact, it was Rockefeller who once referred to him saying: “And to think he wasn’t even a rich man.” Morgan’s power did not lie in the millions he had, as much as in the billions he controlled.
Who didn’t like him: The left-wing of the political spectrum, who perceived him as the embodiment of everything they were against. The way American poet and writer Horace Traubel puts it: He was a brute. His code as barbarous. He put us all under tribute. He walked over rather than round the humanities… [but] I am not satisfied when he is discredited…. He was a certain civilization.”
Anything named after him? Yes, America’s largest bank by assets, JPMorgan Chase, is still carrying his name.
And the winner is:
Choosing between the wealthy white capitalist and the legendary black freedom fighter? Harriet Tubman wins, obviously.
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