African American abolitionist to appear on United States' $20 bill

By Ana Swanson

This image provided by the Library of Congress shows Harriet Tubman, between 1860 and 1875. Photo / AP
This image provided by the Library of Congress shows Harriet Tubman, between 1860 and 1875. Photo / AP

The US Treasury has decided to put African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 bill, replacing former president Andrew Jackson, who will be moved to the back of the bill, Treasury officials said today.

Former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton will remain on the front of the new $10 bill, officials said, after the Treasury department encountered fierce opposition to its initial plan to remove the founding father to make way for a woman to appear on the paper currency.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will announce decisions regarding several bills on today, officials said.

The front of the US $20 bill, featuring a likeness of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. Photo / AP
The front of the US $20 bill, featuring a likeness of Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States. Photo / AP

The Treasury Department hopes to release the design concept for the new bills by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the United States.

Citing unnamed sources, CNN reported that the soonest the new $20 bill would be issued is 2030. But a Treasury spokesman called that speculation "baseless," saying that Treasury is working with other departments to expedite the process and that it's too early to say when the release date will be.

Lew announced last summer that the Treasury was considering removing Hamilton from the $10 bill, to allow a woman to appear on the front of the currency for the first time since Martha Washington was taken off the $1 silver certificate.

The Treasury was moved in part by a viral campaign in early 2015 to put a woman's portrait on the new $20 bill in 2020, to mark the centennial of women's suffrage. The group "Women on $20s" received more than 600,000 online and in-person votes for a choice of 15 different women. Tubman received the most votes.

Treasury announced plans in June 2015 to honour a woman on the $10 bill, which was already slated for a redesign in 2020. The bills are regularly reworked to stop counterfeiting.

The campaign drew a backlash from supporters of Hamilton, who, as an aide to George Washington and the first secretary of the treasury, helped erect the US economic and banking system. Hamilton has gained notoriety in recent years due to the success of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway play.

The debate sparked a grass-roots movement to remove Jackson, a slave owner whose divisive presidency included removing several Native American tribes from their lands in the South, from the $20 bill. Some point out that Jackson also opposed paper currency in favour of gold and silver.

- Washington Post

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