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Treasury Resuming Efforts to Put
Harriet Tubman on $20 Bill

Redesign had been pushed by Obama administration but wasn’t completed during Trump’s tenure

by Ken Thomas for the Wall Street Journal January 25, 2021

The White House said the Treasury Department was resuming efforts to put escaped slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

Putting Tubman’s image on the currency had been undertaken by the Obama administration but the work wasn’t completed during former President Donald Trump’s tenure. “We’re exploring ways to speed up that effort,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

Ms. Psaki said it was important that the nation’s currency and notes “reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”

The redesign of the bill would place a woman on the front of U.S. paper currency for the first time in more than a century and replace the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson, a slave owner who stared down an early threat of secession imperiling the union. In the new design, Jackson would move to the back of the note.

The Treasury Department’s watchdog agreed in 2019 to review the agency’s plan after Democrats said the Trump Treasury Department had intentionally slow-walked the proposal.

As a candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump had rejected the idea of putting Tubman on the bill. During his term he expressed admiration for Jackson, kept a portrait of him in the Oval Office and visited Jackson’s tomb at the Hermitage in Nashville early in his presidency.

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2019 that plans to unveil the Tubman bill would be postponed until at least 2026.

Obama administration officials had originally expressed hope that final concept designs for the new currency would be released last year, while suggesting the bill wouldn’t likely be in circulation until much later in order to add security features.

Tubman was born a slave around 1822 on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and became a leading abolitionist and suffragette. She escaped slavery in 1849 but spent the next decade repeatedly returning to Maryland to help free her friends and family through the Underground Railroad, a network of people and places that helped slaves safely escape to the north.

Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812 and a founder of the Democratic Party, pushed for the forced westward relocation of American Indians, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), who has pushed for the changes on the $20 bill, said on Twitter she was “ready to help the Biden admin see this through so we can finally give Harriet Tubman the honor & recognition she long deserves.”

In 2016, the Obama Administration sought to replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of the redesigned $20 bill with Harriet Tubman.

By Ken Thomas for the Wall Street Journal

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