President Joe Biden is picking up the baton from former President Barack Obama and is re-implementing plans to add the likeness of slave abolitionist Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill, replacing that of slave-maker and former U.S. president, Andrew Jackson.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Monday, Jan. 25, that the Treasury Department is accelerating plans to make the change.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Psaki said.
Jack Lew, treasury secretary under Obama, initially announced similar plans in 2016, after much public support; however, he ran out of time. The unveiling would have been set for 2020.
Succeeding president, Donald Trump, opposed the plan, and along with the then treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, thwarted those efforts, sparking severe backlash from some Democrats in Congress. The Treasury inspector general launched a probe into “whether the process faced improper political interference.” No wrong-doing was found afterwards.
“I was here when we announced that, and it was very exciting and hasn’t moved forward yet, which we would have been surprised to learn at the time,” Psaki said. “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—people don’t know what a note is—reflect the history and diversity of our country. And Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort, but any specifics would, of course, come from the Department of Treasury.”
A Treasury spokeswoman said they had no information regarding when a new design of the $20 bill will be released. Under Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Tubman was named Araminta “Minty” Ross after being born in the early 1820s in Dorchester County, Maryland. She later became a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad, leading hundreds of enslaved Americanized Africans to freedom prior to the Civil War.
She owned a house in Auburn, New York, where she transitioned in 1913. Her body was interred at Fort Hill Cemetery.
Tubman would be the very first woman, as well as person of color, to be featured on paper currency in the U.S. Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea have appeared on coins.