Harriet Tubman to Replace Andrew Jackson on $20 Bill

A late 1800s photo of Harriet Tubman.

Image: Harriet Tubman | H. B. Lindsley/Library of Congress

The Treasury Department announced today that it would remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill and put freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in his place. She helped rescue hundreds of Black Americans from slavery. The change stems from a petition to replace Jackson—it’s worth remembering that he owned slaves—with Tubman, signed by many and sent to President Obama.

Tubman’s position on the currency is an important historical gesture. Tubman worked tirelessly to free so many people from what is arguably the darkest part of American history. As the widow of a war veteran, she also used the pension she received from the government to help in her service as a nurse, scout, cook, and spy during the Civil War.

This bill change comes as part of a few other changes to American currency. The Treasury Department had already announced that depictions of women would be placed on bills. New designs are to be released by 2020, in time for the hundred-year anniversary of women’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Those bills would not enter into circulation for another ten years.

Andrew Hamilton, whose face graces the $10 bill, is staying right where he is. A woman’s image could be placed on the back of that bill and others. The currently-popular musical about Hamilton has propelled his cult following.

Some women, however, would like to see Hamilton replaced with another woman’s image. A win for the “hottest” founding father meant a loss for many women who could have been placed on the bill, some say.

“It’s yet another ‘wait your turn’ moment for American women,” says Cokie Roberts, a political commentator.

Still, for now, placing Tubman on the bill is a good way to promote visibility for her story, the Civil Rights movement, and is perhaps one way the government wants to show solidarity with current civil rights movements and activists.

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