In contrast to an announcement made by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in April 2016, abolitionist Harriet Tubman might not replace former U.S. president and known slave owner Andrew Jackson on the country’s $20 bill after all.
Tubman, a Black woman who freed hundreds of slaves in the mid-19th century, would be the first woman to be on a U.S. banknote since first First Lady Martha Washington was depicted on the $1 silver certificates of 1891. Tubman was responsible for guiding enslaved African Americans to St. Catharines, Ont. as part of the Underground Railroad.
“Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in an Aug. 31 interview on CNBC. “People have been on the bills for a long period of time. And this is something we will consider. Right now, we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”
Mnuchin’s comments contrast those made by Lew last year, when he announced plans for the country’s new $20, $10 and $5 notes. In addition to improving anti-counterfeiting technology, the new notes were also slated to feature different portraits and vignettes.
Tubman was slated to be the face of the forthcoming $20, which would include a background with images of the White House and Andrew Jackson. The announcement generated widespread publicity for U.S. paper money after Tubman was the public’s choice in a widely publicized online campaign known as “Women on 20s.”
Alexander Hamilton was to remain the face of the forthcoming $10 note but with a background showing March 3, 1913, which was the date the Women’s Suffrage Parade culminated on the steps of the Treasury Building. It would also honour various leaders of the American suffrage movement.
Abraham Lincoln was slated to remain the face of the $5 note but with a representation of civil rights events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial – including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech – on the opposite side.
The $10 note – and the final design concepts for the $5 and $20 notes – was expected to be ready by August 2020.
“The No. 1 issue why we change the currency is to stop counterfeiting,” said Mnuchin in his Aug. 31 interview with CNBC. “So the issues of what we change will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes. I’ve received classified briefings on that. And that’s what I’m focused on for the most part.”