The Biden Administration announced that Harriet Tubman will take her place on the $20 bill sooner than expected. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. Treasury Department will soon begin the necessary steps to make this happen.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Psaki said in a statement. She also went on to say that our country’s notes and money should “reflect the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
The process of putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill began five years ago, during the time of the Obama Administration. Then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Tubman’s portrait would grace the front of the bill; the image of President Andrew Jackson would move to the reverse side.
However in 2019, Steven Mnuchin, who served as Treasury Secretary under the Trump Administration, announced that the new bill would not come out until 2028; he said the reasoning was “nonpolitical” and was to fight against the creation of counterfeit bills. This then brought about an investigation done by the Treasury Department to look into the delay.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was critical of the bill change, saying the move was led by “pure political correctness.”
Trump, a known fan of Andrew Jackson, also suggested that putting Tubman’s image on a different note—such as the $2 bill—would be “more appropriate.”
Harriet Tubman’s Place in History
Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and worked for her owner, Eliza Brodess, in Maryland. At the age of 27, Tubman escaped for the first time with her brothers, Ben and Henry. Although, once her brothers started having doubts over their escape, the three of them went back.
Harriet escaped once more, without her brothers this time, by using the Underground Railroad, a 90-mile network of escape routes and safe houses run by abolitionists and used by enslaved African Americans. After walking the 90 miles, she found herself in Philadelphia and took up several jobs to save money.
Afterwards, she returned to Maryland several times to help free some of her family members and other slaves; she led as many as 70 slaves to freedom and claimed to have “never lost a passenger.”
In Tubman’s later years, she worked as an activist for the Women’s Suffrage movement and served as a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War.
“The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old,” Lew said in a statement from 2016. “Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embodies the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates, and we will continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency.”