On Wednesday, April 20, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that former slave and national hero Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill.
This redesigned bill, along with the new $5 and $10 bills, will start circulating throughout the United States in 2020 to celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote.
Former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman had an important role as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping hundreds of slaves in Maryland escape to the North. Tubman suffered harsh punishments as a slave, but despite her lasting scars, she remained a strong leader.
History Department Chair Steve Kramer teaches about Tubman in his U.S. history class.
“She’s a woman who is really important in Antebellum America and also in Civil War America,” Kramer said.
However, many people did not know of the rest of Tubman’s achievements until Catherine Clinton published “Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.” This book informed the public of how Tubman continued to participate in the fight to end slavery, working as a spy and becoming the first women to lead an armed expedition for the Union army in the civil war.
Recently, a non-profit organization known as Women on 20s decided it was time to remove the portrait of slave owner Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill. Founded by Barbara Ortiz Howard in 2014, this organization made it their mission to feature a woman’s face on our nation’s currency. Executive Director of Women on 20s Susan Ades Stone talked to Women on 20s about the subject.
“We had been looking to this Treasury Secretary to put a woman front and center as soon as possible and powerfully inspire the quest for gender equality going forward,” Stone said.
Using an online election, the organization encouraged citizens to vote for one of 15 women who left a significant impact in the history of the United States. Harriet Tubman received over 600,000 votes, becoming the winner.
On May 12, 2015 the Women on 20s presented a petition to president Obama in an attempt to represent Harriet Tubman on one of the United States’ bills.
Almost a year later, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the $20 bill will feature Harriet Tubman on the front, moving Andrew Jackson to the back of the bill. While Kramer believes that Harriet Tubman is an important addition to the $20 bill he also sees Jackson as important in the context of the world at the time.
“Jackson is the symbol of the self-made man,” Kramer said. “He is the first president to rise out of a non-elite family. He is seen as a symbol of what can be achieved in America.”
In a discussion with her AP World History class former Chair of the Student Diversity Board Hallie Gu expressed her surprise in how Andrew Jackson was originally chosen to be featured on the $20 bill.
She also shares her support for this change and her excitement that there will finally be female representation on our nation’s currency.
“Harriet Tubman’s cause represents what America is about more than Andrew Jackson,” Gu said.
However, this is not the only change being made. Significant changes will be made to the back of the $5 and $10 bills as well, although Presidents Alexander Hamilton and Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front. The back of the $5 bill will incorporate Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King and African-American singer Marian Anderson. Additionally, the back of the $10 bill will feature an image showing the 1913 march in support of women’s right to vote.
“I am so happy to see these changes, but it should be the beginning, not the end,” Gu said. “I would love to see more women and minorities on bills.”
Despite the support and happiness associated with these changes, there were also some negative responses. Junior Alex Shaw feels it is an injustice to only feature women on the back of the bills, a secondary position to the front of the bill.
“I think that it’s not fair that women are just on the back especially because we’ve had to fight for a lot more than men have had to fight for,” Shaw said. “But it’s still a good step because we’re getting some representation.”
Senior Brianna Buford explains that from the moment the news was announced she witnessed a mixed response: some expressed their full support while others tweeted or announced their hatred of the idea of Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson.
“I believe the change will have a solid support system backing it, but of course there will be plenty of people who hate the idea of a black woman on the $20 bill,” Buford said.
Buford believes that despite this exciting step forward the world still has a long way to come before the end of racism.
“Racism and its overlap with gender inequality that black women face every day still exists and won’t disappear just because of this,” Buford said.
– Amelia Brown – Asst. Sports and Health Editor –