Treasury to replace Jackson with Tubman on $20

President Andrew Jackson will be replaced on the front of the $20 bill by Harriet Tubman, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday. 

The move means Alexander Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary and inspiration for the eponymous hit Broadway musical, will remain on the $10 bill. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Jackson's image will instead appear with an image of the White House on the back of the $20 bill. The new design for the back of the $10 bill will feature leaders of the suffrage movement: Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. 

The back of the $5 bill will also be changed to feature depictions of events at the Lincoln Memorial “that helped to shape our history and our democracy and prominent individuals involved in those events, including Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.,” according to the Treasury Department.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he directed the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to accelerate the design process so the first new bills could be unveiled by 2020, the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage. Circulation dates have not been determined. The $10 bill will be the first released, followed by the $5 bill and $20 bill.

“Americans care deeply about both the look and feel of their currency and the story each note tells,” Lew told reporters. “The feedback that we received helped shape a decision that was far more exciting than anticipated.”

Tubman helped tens of thousands of slaves escape to freedom before the end of the Civil War. She also spied during the Civil War for the Union army.

“It’s a story that both reflects American values, American democracy,” Lew said of Tubman. “So much of what we believe has changed for the better in our country is represented by her story."

Lew said that Treasury considered millions of letters, posts on social media, thousands of conversations and even impromptu input from tourists visiting the department as it made its decision. 

Activists have long campaigned for a woman's image to be featured on American paper currency and had seen the $20 as the ideal target. There are roughly 8.1 billion $20 bills in circulation, compared to 1.9 billion $10 bills. 

Jackson has been criticized as unfit for the honor because of his opposition to paper currency and forced removal of thousands of Native Americans as president. Lew said that Jackson would stay on the bill because he “opened the White House to the American people and had a lasting impact on our country.”

The Treasury announced last summer plans to include both a woman and Hamilton on $10 bills, but activists urged officials to give a woman her own space on the $20 bill.

Women on 20s, a prominent group pushing to replace Jackson's portrait with a woman's, praised the announcement.

“What was to be a celebration of female American heroes for our 100th anniversary of inclusion in the democracy cannot be postponed,” said Women On 20s founder Barbara Ortiz Howard. “It’s time to get the party started honoring women on the new $10 and a new $20 in time for 2020.”

Treasurer Rosie Rios said that because security and anti-counterfeiting measures are the primary reasons bills are redesigned, the changes require “a very deliberate and technical process,” but she pledged to release the bills as soon as possible. 

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, the first woman to hold the title, said she "welcomed" the Treasury's decision.

"Throughout American history, women have made important contributions to the free and democratic society we enjoy today," said Yellen. "The Federal Reserve will work with Treasury on a design that also incorporates strong security features to protect worldwide users of U.S. currency."

Democrats, including presidential candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonMissing piece to the Ukraine puzzle: State Department's overture to Rudy Giuliani On The Money: Trump downplays urgency of China trade talks | Chinese negotiators cut US trip short in new setback | Trump sanctions Iran's national bank | Survey finds Pennsylvania, Wisconsin lost the most factory jobs in past year Meghan McCain, Ana Navarro get heated over whistleblower debate MORE and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to join teachers, auto workers striking in Midwest Krystal Ball tears into 'Never Trump' Republicans 2020 Democrats defend climate priorities in MSNBC forum MORE, praised early news of announcement as a long-awaited win for the push to put images of women on U.S. currency.

“A woman, a leader, and a freedom fighter,” tweeted Clinton, who is on course to be the first female presidential nominee of a major political party. “I can't think of a better choice for the $20 bill than Harriet Tubman.”

“I cannot think of an American hero more deserving of this honor than Harriet Tubman,”  Sanders said on Twitter.

Sen. Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCruz endorses GOP candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Meghan McCain: Lewandowski Senate run would be 'an absolutely ridiculous crap show' Super PAC targets Lewandowski with ad amid Senate speculation MORE (D-N.H.), who offered legislation to put Tubman on the $20 bill, called the move “historic.”

“Having a woman prominently on the face of the 20 will finally send a powerful message on our currency about the important role women have played in our nation’s history,” Shaheen said. “Women have waited long enough, and I will urge the Treasury Department to look at every possible option to expedite the release date of this new bill.”

But Rep. Steve Cohen, a liberal Democrat representing Memphis, appeared torn by the decision. He said Tubman is "an appropriate choice" but declined to expound on the move to oust Jackson, a fellow Tennessean.

"I understand the reason why they'd do that," he said. "Harriet Tubman was a great woman, and it's appropriate that we recognize women on our currency."

Republicans were largely silent about the announcement. Former GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson praised Tubman but suggested a spot on the $2 bill as more appropriate tribute. The $2 bill is exceedingly rare, but still in circulation.

Rep. Dianne Black (R-Tenn.) told reporters she was "sad" to hear the news.

"[Jackson] is from my state, and I think that there could have been another solution other than the one they came up with," she said. "I think they should look at the history of what he did for our country, and I wish that they would reconsider their actions."

Updated at 4:34 p.m. Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.