Why a Bookstore Owner Is Working to Get Harriet Tubman a Federal Holiday

If the effort is successful, the abolitionist would be the first woman to be recognized with a federal holiday. Meanwhile, her picture won't appear on the $20 bill until 2030

Woman standing in front of her bookshop in Philadelphia
Courtesy Photo

Jeannine Cook has been fascinated with Harriet Tubman ever since she picked up a book about the abolitionist in her school library as a child.

Cook, 38, learned everything she could about Tubman’s life and how she led over 100 enslaved people to freedom before serving in the Union Army during the Civil War. In February 2020, just before the pandemic hit, Cook opened Harriett’s Bookshop, a Philadelphia bookstore named after Tubman that sells books by female authors. 

Now seeking to honor Tubman on a grander scale, Cook is campaigning to make her the first American woman to be honored with a federal holiday. Cook has collected more than 7,800 signatures on a petition calling for the designation, and she distributes blank postcards in her bookstore that customers can use to write their representatives in support of the effort.

At least one politician has taken notice. Last month, Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., introduced a bill in the House that would establish Harriet Tubman Day as a federal holiday sometime after Presidents Day.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed March 10 Harriet Tubman Day after Congress passed a resolution calling for its establishment. Still, it wasn’t made a federal holiday, and Cook and other supporters say Tubman’s life and legacy deserve a higher level of national recognition.

Read the full story on here. 

Jeannine Cook had a dream: open a bookstore that celebrated women activists – especially women of color. She was finally able to open the shop just before the new year. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, fundamentally altering her small shop. The fight for racial equality bolstered the store's profile, but also made it a target. Here's a look at the ups and downs of running a minority-owned business in these unique days.
Contact Us