Culture

What You Need To Know About Harriet Tubman On The $20 And Today’s Other Currency Move

Following strong buzz that a woman will likely replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, leading abolitionist Harriet Tubman has just been confirmed to take the spot while several female suffrage icons will appear on the back. A Treasury spokesperson dropped the news this morning, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will soon formally announce Tubman as the face of the denomination. This brings the WomenOn20s movement’s goal to fruition, for Tubman will be the first woman to grace U.S. paper currency in almost a century.

This honor seems long overdue for such a renowned figure in American history, particularly when law enforcement across the country could still use a nudge regarding civil rights. The amount of Tubman’s new bill also holds some bittersweet significance, which is tied to her compensation for Civil War services. Tubman received a $20 monthly pension until she died, although she requested far more after racking up great personal expense to carry out her duties as a nurse, spy, and scout. In addition, Tubman once held a sit-in to receive $20, which she used to rescue her own father and move him to safety.

(Update: Jackson will still appear on the back of the bill, which may dampen the excitement over this news.)

This won’t be the only currency shakeup. Last year, Lew made a very clear-sounding declaration that a woman would become the face of the $10 and oust Alexander Hamilton in the process. The internet had some interesting ideas of who that lady would be, but those Photoshop jobs were all for naught. Lew has switched plans, and the New York Times does some mind reading on his behalf to explain why this change has stalled:

In the months of taking public comments on what woman he should pick, Mr. Lew evidently bowed to the Broadway-stoked popularity of the $10 bill’s current star, Alexander Hamilton. Instead, images of women are expected to grace the back of the new bill, with Ms. Tubman taking the top spot on a redesigned $20 further into the future.

So, the ladies are taking a backseat in a literal sense, for a group of women will appear on the back of the $10 now. Folks are assuming that this pivot occurred because everyone loves a certain musical, which won a Pulitzer Prize this week. The New York Times notes that Hamilton‘s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, “personally pressed” Lew to leave their man as-is on the bill.

All of this news makes for great headlines now, but don’t expect to see the new currency anytime soon. CNN reminds us that the new $10 won’t arrive until 2020, and the new $20 will — at the earliest — arrive in 2030.

(Via New York Times, USA Today & CNN)

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