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Harriet Tubman will soon be gracing the face of the $20 bill.
In a blog post on Medium, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew laid out the reasons for the redesign, as well as the thinking behind proposed changes for the $5 and $10 bills.
The move comes after nearly a year of deliberation by the Treasury after it solicited redesigns for the $10 bill. According to Lew, after receiving pushback on removing Alexander Hamilton from the $10 note, the department eventually settled on Harriet Tubman and the $20 note.
“The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old,” wrote Lew.
I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy. You shared your thoughts about her life and her works and how they changed our nation and represented our most cherished values.
He said that the influx of responses also led to changes on the $5 and $10 notes, which will feature leaders of the civil-rights and women’s-rights movements, respectively, on the backs of the bills.
These moves are necessary after a long gap of women being excluded from America’s currency, wrote Lew, but will also preserve the old mainstay and founder of the nation’s financial system: Hamilton.
As I said when we launched this exciting project: after more than 100 years, we cannot delay, so the next bill to be redesigned must include women, who for too long have been absent from our currency. The new $10 will honor the story and the heroes of the women’s suffrage movement against the backdrop of the Treasury building… The new $10 design will depict that historic march and honor Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul for their contributions to the suffrage movement. The front of the new $10 will continue to feature Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Treasury Secretary and the architect of our economic system.
The $5 bill was chosen to feature civil-rights leaders because of the note’s association with President Abraham Lincoln. Here’s Lew again:
The reverse of the new $5 will depict the historic events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1939, at a time when Washington’s concert halls were still segregated, world–renowned Opera singer Marian Anderson helped advance civil rights when, with the support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, she performed at the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people. And in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech at the same monument in front of hundreds of thousands. Honoring these figures will bring to life events at the Lincoln Memorial that helped to shape our history and our democracy.
Lew said that he has asked for a rush to be put on approval of the designs, which must go through the Federal Reserve, allowing the new bills to enter circulation “as quickly as possible.” The new currencies will also include new security features designed to prevent counterfeiting.
While the move also serves those functions, the notes’ new designs will be an important way to tell the country’s story, concluded Lew.
“Of course, more work remains to tell the rich and textured history of our country,” Lew wrote. “But with this decision, our currency will now tell more of our story and reflect the contributions of women as well as men to our great democracy.”