WASHINGTON (WRIC/CNS) — The U.S. Department of the Treasury announced on Wednesday that Harriet Tubman would be the new face of the $20 bill. This would mark the first major bill change since the late 1920s. Also, Tubman will be the first African-American and the first woman in over a century to be featured on U.S. currency.
Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson, a president and slave owner, on the front of the $20 bill. Jackson would be moved to the back.
Tubman founded the Underground Railroad, a series of trails that escaped slaves trekked along to seek refuge in the Northern free states. The railroad ran from the Deep South through Virginia and stopped in New England. In addition, the trails stretched to the Midwest and into Canada.
In an online poll, Tubman garnered just under 120,000 votes, edging out former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt by about 7,000 votes for the bill placement. Leaders of Women on 20s, a lobbyist group that advocated placing a woman on the $20 bill, were pleased by the decision but not entirely optimistic.
“We see today’s announcement as only a vague commitment and a continuation of the now familiar message that women have to settle for less and wait for their fair share,” said Barbara Ortiz Howard, the founder of Women on 20s. “I’m happy to have a commitment. I’d be happier to have a date.”
Reports say that the designing and printing process for the new currency could take as long as a decade to complete. Also, the Treasury Department proposed security changes to the $5, $10 and the $20 bills to make the bills harder to counterfeit. In addition, the bills would include features to make them easily distinguishable by blind citizens.
This proposal was originally presented to President Obama in 2014, which he agreed to support. Since then, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has been actively pushing this process forward.
“Lew has demonstrated a seriousness of purpose in taking a look at what the next generation of U.S. currency would look like,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “And the question that he has considered is when those security updates are required, should we make some changes to our currency to make sure that it better reflects the country, and certainly the role that women have played in contributing to the development of our country.”
Capital News Service is a student-operated news reporting program sponsored by the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.