It is official that Harriet Tubman is to become the new face of America’s $20 bill as former Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob J. Lew, unveiled plans to place Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20-dollar-bill in 2016. With the critical role she played as an abolitionist, civil rights activist and a member of the Underground Railroad, this was well deserved.
Tubman became famous for escaping slavery as a young woman, and then sneaking back onto slave plantations many times as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading other brave and desperate people through the woods, swamps and safe houses until they crossed into states where slavery was not permitted. Eventually, they had to trek all the way to Canada to be truly free of the slave catchers.
According to Lew, “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 when he announced the decision in 2016.
“I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy,” he added.
The $20 bill featuring Tubman was expected to be released in 2020 to perfectly coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. However, the Trump administration has moved to postpone the unveiling to 2028.
The announcement was made by treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, on Wednesday, when he appeared before the House Financial Services Committee.
“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” he said when Rep. Ayanna Pressley questioned him about it.
“Based upon this, the $20 bill will not be out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand,” he added.
Prior to Trump’s election, he welcomed the decision to put Tubman on the $20 bill, claiming it was “pure political correctness”. However, he proposed Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead.
After the hearing, Rep. Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter to register her displeasure with the postponement.
“People other than white men built this county. And Sec Mnuchin agrees. Yet, he refuses to update our #currency,” she wrote.
Although Tubman is known as an Underground Railroad icon, she also worked on a major Union military operation. In 1863, she became the first black woman to lead a military expedition at the Combahee River, now known as the Combahee River Raid.