It’s been a long time coming, but Harriet Tubman might finally become the face of the $20 bill.
At a White House press briefing on Jan. 25, press secretary Jen Pskai said the Biden administration is aiming to “speed up” efforts to replace Andrew Jackson with Tubman.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Psaki said. “It’s important that our notes, our money, reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
ABC News shared a clip of the briefing on Twitter:
Press sec. Psaki: "The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes. It's important that our notes, our money…reflect the history and diversity of our country." https://t.co/figJbDMrpt pic.twitter.com/iFGLYtJQLT
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 25, 2021
If you feel like this conversation has been going on for years, you’re right. Tubman was announced as Jackson’s successor on the $20 note by Jacob L. Lew in 2016, during his tenure as Barack Obama’s treasury secretary. But the process came to a halt when Donald Trump took office and Trump deemed the effort “pure political correctness.” According to the Associated Press, Trump’s treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the bill’s redesign would be delayed in order to first redesign the $10 and $50 notes to improve security features and deter counterfeiters.
Tubman, who was born a slave, is a crucial figure in American history. She helped secure the freedom of many people on the Underground Railroad, was a Union Army spy during the Civil War, and advocated for women’s suffrage.
Her presence on the $20 bill will come as a relief to many. Jackson’s selection is a controversial one, as he enslaved more than 160 people to help him make money at The Hermitage, his 1,000-acre cotton plantation. As the seventh president of the United States, his Indian Removal Act forced Native American tribes to relocate, allowing white Southerners to take over their land.
The Treasury Department says the portraits on American currency “are of deceased persons whose places in history the American people know well,” adding that all current designs were chosen in 1928. But the department’s website also states that they don’t know exactly why “certain presidents and statesmen were chosen for specific denominations.”