harriet tubman will be the first woman to grace an american bill

The abolitionist hero will grace the $20 bill, while slave holder Andrew Jackson will be moved to the back. But not everyone is happy about the change.

by Hannah Ongley
20 April 2016, 9:39pm


At the end of the United States Civil War, during which former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman served as a scout, nurse, cook, and spy, she received a pension of $20 a month as the widow of Union veteran Nelson Davis. Now she will grace the front of the U.S. $20 bill as the first woman to do so. The man she will replace, 7th U.S. president Andrew Jackson, was a slave holder and white supremacist who has been unreasonably commemorated on the face of the bill for nearly a century. 

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced the historic decision today, Politico reports. "Today, I'm excited to announce that for the first time in more than a century, the front of our currency will feature the portrait of a woman, Harriet Tubman, on the $20 note," Lew told reporters during a conference call Wednesday afternoon. The symbolic currency makeover will also include the addition of women and civil rights leaders on the back of the $5 and $10 bills. More questionably, an image of Jackson will remain on the back of Tubman's new note. 

The original idea was to put Tubman on the face of the $10, replacing Alexander Hamilton. The final decision was based not just on Jackson's amorality but on the popularity of the Broadway smash hit musical Hamilton. So while most people are interpreting this as a victory for women and people of color, not everyone is happy about a) women being moved to the back in the name of Broadway box office grosses and b) Tubman becoming a symbol of the very capitalism she fought against.

The new designs will be released in 2020, with the bills going into circulation some time in the next decade. Politico notes that Treasury is likely to ask the Federal Reserve to expedite the process and get the bills into circulation ASAP. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Twitter

alexander hamilton
harriet tubman
Andrew Jackson