Last updated on September 18th, 2017 at 02:38 am
Legislation seeking to replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on 20-dollar bills with that of slavery abolition icon Harriet Tubman was introduced in the House of Representatives, after the treasury secretary said the change was not a priority.
Lawmakers John Katko (R-New York) and Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland) have proposed a legislation that would require the Department of Treasury to update 20-dollar bills with Tubman’s portrait by 2020 – announced by the Obama administration last year.
“It’s not something that I’m focused on at the moment,” Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin said two weeks ago in an interview with CNBC.
“The issues of why we change it will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes.”
Lawmakers, though, want to force the Treasury’s hand through legislation.
“Too often, our nation does not do enough to honor the contributions of women in American history, especially women of color,” said Cummings, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “I am proud to introduce this bill with Rep. Katko to honor Harriet Tubman’s role in making America a more free and more equal society.”
Cummings introduced a similar bill in 2015. A year later, Treasury under the Obama administration, announced that Harriet Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the 20-dollar bill, while Jackson’s portrait would remain on the back of it.
The seventh president of the United States was a notable populist with a distinguished military career and the founder of the modern-day Democratic Party.
In 1835, Jackson became the only U.S. president to completely pay off the national debt. Jackson was also a slave owner and ordered the forcible removal of five Native American nations from their ancestral land to present-day Oklahoma.
Tubman was born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1820. She escaped in 1849, but returned many times to lead other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.
She became the most famous ‘conductor’ of the elaborate network of secret safe houses between the southern slave states and Canada, and was one of the leaders of the abolition movement.
During the Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union as a cook, nurse, armed scout and spy. She was also the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war during the Combahee River Raid that liberated more than 700 slaves in South Carolina. Tubman died of pneumonia in 1913 at a nursing home named in her honor in Auburn, New York.
The Obama administration also planned to redesign the backs of 5- and 10-dollar bills to depict civil rights-era leaders and the suffragette movement, which fought for women’s right to vote.