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US: Harriet Tubman is Back on the New USD$20 Note

Categories : Cash contributes to education
February 4, 2021
Tags : Diversity, Dollar, US, Women on banknotes
The new US Administration has announced efforts to speed up the design of the new $20 bill featuring abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman. The project had been paused under the Trump administration.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

In April 2016, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced plans for the redesigns of the US$20, US$10 and US$5 notes. The new US$20 would feature the portrait of Harriet Tubman. “We anticipate that final concept designs for the new US$20, US$10, and US$5 notes will all be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.” wrote Secretary Lew in an open letter.

An Enslaved Woman, an Abolitionist and a Political Activist

Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends. During the U.S. Civil War, Tubman worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, and then as an armed scout and spy, becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war. After the war, she became active in the women’s suffrage movement until illness overtook her, and she was admitted to a home for elderly Black Americans that she had helped to establish years earlier. After her death in 1913, she became an icon of courage and freedom.

In May 2019, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that the Harriet Tubman $20 bill redesign would not enter circulation before 2028, at the earliest. Testifying before U.S. Congress, Secretary Mnuchin said that the new note would be delayed for technical reasons as the development of new secretary features would make the deadline impossible to meet. The New York Times reported that in 2016, Mr. Trump had called the design change “pure political correctness” and suggested that Tubman could be featured on a far less common denomination, like the $2 bill.

The new Biden administration, in one of its first acts in office, has announced plans to accelerate the process of designing the new note.  “It’s important that our notes, our money — if people don’t know what a note is — reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new US$20 note would certainly reflect that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

No timelines have been yet announced by the Treasury for the launch of the new note. In addition to Harriet Tubman on the US$20 note, Lew had announced plans for the reverse of the US$5 to honour events that helped to shape US history and democracy and prominent individuals involved in those events, including singer Marian Anderson, and Martin Luther King Jr.


This post is also available in: Spanish