Connect with us


What’s Taking So Long For Harriet Tubman $20 Bill To Come Out?

 Image Name



harriet tubman $20 bill

In 2016, then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the abolitionist and freedom fighter Harriet Tubman would replace President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, a move hailed as a significant step towards diversity and inclusion in American currency. However, the timeline for the release of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill has been a source of speculation and frustration since then, with some wondering if it would ever be released at all.

In February 2021, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confirmed in an internal Black History Month message that the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is on track to debut to the public in 2030, despite concerns and speculations. “We know that putting Dr. Angelou on the quarter is just the beginning of the work ahead to make our currency and coinage reflect the totality of the diversity of this country, including placing Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. This Black History Month- the third February of the pandemic – I believe that was a Department, and as a country, are more cognizant of where we’ve been” Secretary Yellen said in the internal note.

In comparison, the Maya Angelou quarters were produced within months of being announced.

 Image Name
Source: US Mint

The Obama Administration, along with the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ADC) Steering Committee, created a release schedule for the next family of monetary notes in 2013. The $20 bill was scheduled for release in 2020, but the Trump Administration later postponed the release to 2028. The current timeline for the release of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is in 2030.

RELATED: Elijah McCoy: How a Black Man Revolutionized Industrial Machinery

The Push to get Harriet Tubman on $20 Bill

In 2014, President Barack Obama received a letter from an 11-year-old girl in Massachusetts saying women should appear on American currency. The little girl, Sofia, asked President Obama why there were no women represented on U.S. paper currency. Her mother, Kim, told ABC News, “She came home from school one day and said, ‘Mom, I need to write to the president’ so I gave her a piece of paper and that became the really famous letter.”

The letter from Sofia included a list of women she nominated to be on the dollar, include Harriet Tubman.

Sofia then got a call from Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to let her know that Harriet Tubman will be on the $20 bill.

But there has been a movement to get Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill years before Sofia’s letter to President Obama. Writer Jillian Keenan puts the argument perfectly in this article for Slate.

 Image Name

Long before Harriet Tubman was proposed to be on the $20 bill, there has been a push to remove President Andrew Jackson from that bill. Jackson, America’s 7th president, was a notorious racist and slave owner. He is also known for the Trail of Tears, a brutal displacement of at least 46,000 Cherokees, Choctaws, Muscogee-Creeks, Chickasaws, and Seminoles off their ancestral lands.

RELATED: The Forgotten Story of Igbo Landing

Harriet Tubman replacing President Andrew Jackson is not a celebrated move by all.

Former President Trump was an outspoken critic of the move when he ran for president in 2016, calling the movement “pure political correctness.” In an interview with NBC News, President Trump said, “Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill. I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson or see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”

Then U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was also not enthusiastic about putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill back in 2017, saying “People have been on the bills for a long period of time. This is something we’ll consider; right now we have a lot more important issues to focus on.”

On the other hand, there are those who argue that Harriet Tubman should not be on the $20 bill because it would be an insult to her legacy. Writer Sade Green writes here that the last thing Tubman should be a symbol of is a capitalist system that was built off the back of slaves. Instead of putting Tubman on a bill, Green argues, “Our government must honor Harriet Tubman by eradicating every single injustice that continues to attack Black people’s humanity. In order to achieve this equality and justice, the United States government must first pay reparations to African Americans for slavery.”

Sade Green is not alone in this thought. Writer Brittney Cooper shares the same opinion in the article, “Putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 Bill Is Not a Sign of Progress. It’s a Sign of Disrespect.”

RELATED: Is the $5 Million Reparation Proposed by SF the Right Reparation Move?

Andrew Jackson will not be completely off the $20 bill as the design of the proposed bill stands. He will be moved to the back of the bill in a smaller image.

There have also been other proposals about changing up the $5 bill to feature civil rights leaders. Initially, there were plans to replace Alexander Hamilton with Tubman on the $10 bill, but it was announced that Hamilton will stay. There are still plans to put leaders of the women’s suffrage movement on the back of the $10 bill while Alexander Hamilton stays in the front.

The $10 bill was up first for a redesign and Treasury Secretary Lew had announced he was considering replacing Hamilton. There was a huge backlash to this announcement from fans of Alexander Hamilton, who helped create the Treasury Department. Instead, those critics offered up Andrew Jackson to be kicked off the $20 bill.

The super popular Broadway musical Hamilton had a role in reigniting interest in Alexander Hamilton and keeping him on the $10 bill. The musical creator Lin-Manuel Miranda even directly lobbied Secretary Lew to keep Hamilton on the bill.

RELATED: The 5 African Tribes Affected the Most by the Slave Trade

What’s Behind the Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Delay?

There have been questions about why it takes so long to produce the new banknotes compared to coins. The main concern is whether the new bills are counterfeit-proof. The production of coins and notes differs because they are made by different federal entities, the United States Mint, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, respectively. Additionally, whenensure that the new currency is authentic and has security features.

 Image Name

In contrast, the production of coins is less complicated, and the only significant thing that changes is the image on the coin. Counterfeiting is not as much of a concern when coins are produced for multiple reasons. For example, the public and vendors have gotten very familiar with the quarter’s design changing due to the 50 states quarter program. It’s expensive to try to reproduce coins due to its physical metal makeup, and there’s not a significant composition change to the design of a coin in comparison to a note.

The delay in the release of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is a matter of procedural matters, and the public education campaign that is required to ensure that the new currency is authentic and has security features. The redesign process of banknotes involves several activities that occur at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, from gaining approval of the image and subject matter to acquiring security features, designing the banknotes, and securing materials and equipment to begin physically making the note.

Production testing occurs shortly after, including assessments for domestic and international banknote machine readiness. The public education campaign takes place domestically and internationally to ensure that when the United States dollar is used anywhere, there is assurance that it is the real thing.

But we can’t overlook President Trump’s role in delaying the Harriet Tubman $20 bill.

Trump has an affinity toward President Andrew Jackson. In fact, Trump selected a portrait of Andrew Jackson to be displayed in the Oval Office while he was president. Instead of replacing Jackson, Trump suggested that Harriet Tubman be placed on the $2 bill.

The release of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill is a step towards diversity and inclusion in American currency, and it is a reminder that currency reflects the totality of the diversity of this country.

RELATED: Why is Black History Month in February?

Harriet Tubman’s Remarkable Life

Born Araminta Ross into chattel slavery, Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and led the Underground Railroad to free other slaves into the North. The Underground Railroad was a network of antislavery activists and safe houses. She often traveled at night and risked her life to guide groups of slaves into freedom. Tubman also helped newly escaped slaves find work.

Harriet Tubman initially worked as a cook and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War. Later on, she became an armed scout and spy for the Union Army, becoming the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war. One of her greatest achievements is guiding the raid at Combahee Ferry and liberated more than 700 slaves.

Beyond fighting against slavery, Harriet Tubman was also a woman’s right activist, working for women’s suffrage. Harriet died in 1913 at the age of 91.