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Joe Biden’s Treasury is reviving plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

President Joe Biden‘s Treasury Department is reviving a plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill after it was delayed under President Donald Trump

The decision to put Tubman, a former slave and noted abolitionist, in place of former President Andrew Jackson was made by the Obama administration in 2016. But last year then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said any change would be delayed until 2030 because of anti-counterfeiting technology requirements.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who served as communications director for former President Barack Obama, said Monday that Treasury would take the steps necessary to put Tubman on the $20 note. 

‘I was here when we announced that and it was very exciting,’ she said at her press briefing.  ‘The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes.’

‘A note reflects the history and diversity of our country and the Harriet Tubman image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort but any specifics would, of course, come from the Department of Treasury,’ she said.

Tubman would be the first woman and first African American to be featured on an American paper currency. Tubman, who served as a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, is a civil rights icon.

President Joe Biden’s Treasury Department is reviving a plan to put Harriet Tubman on $20 bill

President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Monday

President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Monday

The plan to replace Andrew Jackson with Tubman was originally  made in the Obama administration but delayed under President Trump's administration

The plan to replace Andrew Jackson with Tubman was originally  made in the Obama administration but delayed under President Trump’s administration

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Treasury Department would take the steps to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Treasury Department would take the steps to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

The original plan to change the currency was not without controversy. 

In April 2016, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced the plan to put Tubman on the bill while, at the same time, saying founding father Alexander Hamilton would remain on the $10 bill instead of being replaced with a woman.

The proposed changes to the American currency were part of a larger effort by the Obama administration to be more inclusive to women and minorities. 

Harriet Tubman was a former slave turned abolitionist, who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad during Civil War

Harriet Tubman was a former slave turned abolitionist, who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad during Civil War

But Hamilton’s  popularity was high due to the hit Broadway musical ‘Hamilton’ from Lin-Manuel Miranda, who had pressured Treasury to keep Hamilton on the $10. 

However, a number of high-profile women complained about Lew’s decision, writing to him to ask him to select a woman for the $10 note because a redesign of the $20 bill will take longer to complete, possibly up to 10 years.

‘As a country, it is about time we put our money where our mouth is in the fight to support women,’ states the letter signed by, among others, Ellen DeGeneres, Katie Couric and Gloria Steinem. 

But the plan to change on the $20 was put into place, with the expectation the change would come in 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment establishing women’s suffrage.

Jackson is a controversial president who has been accused of genocide for his role in orchestrating the removal of Native Americans from lands to the east of the Mississippi River. He sent them marching west on the so-called Trail of Tears. 

Last year Mnuchin said the redesign would not be released until 2030 because the new currency would require the development of anti-counterfeiting technology and a new print process. 

‘I just want to clarify that we have not changed any of this and this is something in the distant future,’ Mnuchin said, calling reports that he had delayed it a ‘myth.’

His decision came amid nationwide calls for racial justice since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

But officials said because the $20 bill is the standard A.T.M. note it has a high volume that requires major security features and sufficient time to make those security changes. 

Andrew Jackson is one of Donald Trump's favorite presidents. Trump hung Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office as seen above and to the left. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump criticized the Obama administration’s plans to take Jackson off the $20

Andrew Jackson is one of Donald Trump’s favorite presidents. Trump hung Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office as seen above and to the left. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump criticized the Obama administration’s plans to take Jackson off the $20

The Obama administration also proposed to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 with a woman but the founding father was enjoying high popularity because of Lin-Manuel Miranda's (above) hit Broadway musical

The Obama administration also proposed to replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 with a woman but the founding father was enjoying high popularity because of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (above) hit Broadway musical

The $10 bill also was slated to be redesigned and released in 2026. Mnuchin said he had no intention of replacing Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary, on that bill. 

Additionally, Jackson is one of Trump’s favorite presidents. Trump hung Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office.   

As a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump criticized the Obama administration’s plans for the $20 bill.

‘Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,’ Trump said at the time. 


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