Story at a glance

  • The effort to swap former President Jackson with Tubman on the front of the bill was initiated in 2016 under the Obama administration.
  • But the note change was largely dismissed by the Trump administration under former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin said the bills donning Tubman’s image would likely not enter circulation before 2028 due to necessary work on anti-counterfeiting security features.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki said America’s currency should “reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”

The Biden administration is working to speed up the release of $20 bills featuring former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman after the Trump administration shelved the move first initiated by the Obama administration. 

“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a news briefing


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Psaki said the treasury was “exploring ways to speed up the process,” adding that America’s currency should “reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.” 

It’s not clear at this time just how the Biden Treasury Department would accelerate the process. 

The effort to swap former President Jackson with Tubman on the front of the bill was initiated in 2016 under the Obama administration and was set to be unveiled around the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The new bill design will still feature Jackson on the back of the note. 

But the note change was largely dismissed by the Trump administration under former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin said the bills donning Tubman’s image would likely not enter circulation before 2028 due to necessary work on anti-counterfeiting security features. 

Former President Trump has frequently identified with the seventh president and placed a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office, which was removed when Biden took office last week. In 2016, Trump said putting Tubman on the bill and moving Jackson to the back was “pure political correctness.” 

Jackson’s legacy has been criticized due to his history as a slave owner and dismal record on Native American and racial issues, highlighted by the Jackson administration’s “Trail of Tears” policy that forcibly relocated the Cherokee people and left thousands dead. 

Tubman escaped slavery and became an abolitionist and political activist who rescued hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad. 


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Published on Jan 25, 2021