By James Schultz
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that Harriet Tubman is set to replace Andrew Jackson as the new face of the twenty dollar bill. An abolitionist, Civil War spy, and women’s rights activist, Tubman is good fit. Yet, despite her many achievements, several people have voiced their outrage over the change. Some people even question why we should change the currency at all.
However, Barbara Ortiz Howard, founder of the grassroots organization Women on 20s, supports the change. She explains, “One of the reason we were so keen on the 20 is because it’s in circulation four times as much as any other bill, it comes out of our ATMs and it’s used internationally. This is our way to reach more people than ever before and show them that we stand for freedom.”
Tubman is best known for her efforts leading dozens of others to freedom along a secret path of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. The Treasury considered public nominations in its redesign and received more than 200 notable women whom Americans said they would like to see on currency. The list contained women from diverse backgrounds, such as jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, first female casualty of the Iraq war Lori Piestewa, and photographer Margaret Bourke-White.
Although the news was announced recently, the new bills are still being designed. Lew hopes to unveil them by 2020 to honor the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted American women the right to vote. The main reason for changing the bill’s appearance in the first place is to deter counterfeiting, and the process is done on a regular schedule. Howard, however, believes there is still more work to be done to U.S. currency to make the money more reflective of its populace and values. One suggestion Howard proposed was including images of Native American history on the new bills.
Of course, not everyone was excited by Tubman’s promotion to the face of the $20 bill. Former presidential candidate Ben Carson said, Tubman would be better off on the $2 bill. He said Jackson, “a tremendous president,” deserves to remain on the front of the note. Despite Ben Carson’s adamant stance on keeping Jackson on the twenty, the Treasury is still moving forward with the plan to release the new bills in just a few years. Lew believes Harriet Tubman is a great choice, stating that she “reflects both American values and American democracy, but also the power of an individual to make a difference in our democracy.”