Harriet Tubman, the former slave turned abolitionist, will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, with Alexander Hamilton keeping his spot on the $10, according to reports.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced the changes. It comes after months of talks over the future of U.S. currency and an ongoing movement to have a woman’s image added to a bill.
The change will put Tubman on the new $20 but leave Hamilton, the nation’s first Treasury secretary, on the $10, a switch from earlier efforts that involved replacing him. Jackson’s image is expected to remain on the $20 in some way, officials indicated.
The $5 bill will be changed to depict civil rights era leaders, Politico reported.
Lew had previously indicated a woman would likely replace Hamilton on the $10 bill by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. However, interest in Hamilton, led in part by the wildly popular musical that bears his name, has led to calls for him to remain on the currency.
By law, the image of a living person can’t be featured on currency.
Last summer, the group Women on the 20s held a series of votes to help determine which woman should be featured on U.S. currency. Tubman was one of four finalists – the others were former First Lady and social activist Eleanor Roosevelt, Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller and Alabama native and civil rights icon Rosa Parks—with Tubman receiving the most votes.
Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G. K. Butterfield (NC-01) and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee made the following statements after the announcement: “It brings me great joy to learn that the United States will honor abolitionist Harriet Tubman by placing her image on the $20 bill,” said Chairman Butterfield. “An African American woman, former slave, freedom fighter, and leader for women’s rights, Ms. Tubman was a true visionary who is most deserving of this recognition. Ms. Tubman was dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans until her death in 1913. Her legacy continues to impact all Americans to this day and will live on for generations to come.
“Furthermore, the $5 and $10 bills will also feature new historic images that remind us of the activists that have made America a more perfect union,” said Chairman Butterfield. “These designs will represent a more inclusive America by finally representing women, many of whom have been absent in important historical accounts of American history. They made strides towards voting rights and more freedom for Americans. Brave leaders such as Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Paul are symbols of our democracy that deserve much needed recognition amongst many others.”
“I applaud the Treasury Department’s decision to feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, women’s suffrage leaders including Sojourner Truth on the $10 bill, and civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson on the $5 bill,” said Rep. Maxine Waters. “These depictions on our nation’s currency are long overdue and will show the world the remarkable progress our country has made on the road to equality. The Secretary’s decision recognizes the important contributions of women and people of color to our society. I look forward to the circulation of these bills so that we can all feel the weight of history in our hands.”
Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) also responded: “It is long past time we do more to honor the contributions of women in American history, especially women of color. I applaud Secretary Lew’s announcement that the redesigned $20 bill will feature Harriet Tubman. I encourage the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to work with urgency to implement this change.
“Placing Harriet Tubman on our U.S. currency is a fitting tribute to a woman who fought to make the values enshrined in our Constitution a reality for all Americans.
“Harriet Tubman was called the Moses of her people, and it was a name hard-earned.
“Born in Maryland, she escaped slavery and courageously fought for the freedom of other slaves before the Civil War. She continued to battle injustice and inequality until her death.
“I am pleased that in addition to making Harriet Tubman the face of the new $20 bill, five different women and civil rights heroes will now be incorporated in future designs of the $10 bill.”
Last year, Cummings and Congressman John Katko (R-NY), introduced the bipartisan Harriet Tubman Tribute Act to require the Secretary of the Treasury to place Harriet Tubman’s likeness on a Federal Reserve Note by 2017.
Once printed, the new $20 bill will become only the second paper currency to feature a woman. The first First Lady, Martha Washington, was on a $1 Silver Certificate between 1891 and 1896.
Women have appeared on coins, however. Suffragette Susan B. Anthony once adorned a dollar coin, later to be replaced by Sacagawea, the Native American woman who served as a guide to explorers Lewis and Clark. Neither of those coins is in wide circulation.
The only other female to appear on regular U.S. currency was Helen Keller, who was selected as Alabama’s representative on the quarter minted as part of the series depicting images from each state. Keller is the only solo female on any of the state quarters.