Harriet Tubman to Take Over $20 Bill under Biden Administration
The White House is seeking to push forward a plan to make anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman the face of a new $20 bill.
A note featuring Harriet Tubman, who was born a slave in about 1822, was originally due to be unveiled in 2020.
The US Treasury said Harriet Tubman would replace former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner.
The effort was delayed under former President Donald Trump, who branded it “pure political correctness”.
Now President Joe Biden has revived the project, with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki telling reporters the Treasury was “exploring ways to speed up” the process.
The move would make Harriet Tubman the first African American to appear on a US banknote, and the first woman for more than 100 years.
Jen Psaki said on January 25: “It’s important that our notes, our money – if people don’t know what a note is – reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
The women last depicted on US notes were former First Lady Martha Washington, on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896, and Native American Pocahontas, in a group image on the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869.
However, given the complexities of redesigning and producing US banknotes, the bill is not expected to be released any time soon.
In 2019, President Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said the redesign would be delayed until at least 2026. At the time, he said he was focused on redesigning bills to address counterfeiting issues, not making changes to their imagery.
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Donald Trump, an admirer of his populist predecessor Andrew Jackson – whose portrait hung in his office – expressed opposition to the redesign.
While campaigning in 2016, Donald Trump suggested that Harriet Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead.
Born into slavery in about 1822, Harriet Tubman grew up working in the cotton fields in Dorchester County, Maryland. She was the fourth of nine children born to two enslaved parents, Benjamin Ross and Harriet Rit.
As a teenager, Harriet Tubman was hit in the head by an iron weight thrown by an overseer, leaving her severely injured.
She escaped from a slave plantation in 1849, fleeing north to the neighboring state of Pennsylvania.
In the years that followed, Harriet Tubman returned multiple times to Maryland to rescue others, conducting them along the so-called “underground railroad”, a network of safe houses used to spirit slaves from the south to the free states in the north.
Harriet Tubman is estimated to have made some 13 missions to rescue more than 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network.
Later, she became a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, a prominent supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and a famous veteran of the struggle for the abolition of slavery.
After the war, Harriet Tubman toured eastern cities giving speeches in support of women’s suffrage, drawing on her experiences in the fight against slavery.
Harriet Tubman died in 1913, aged 91, surrounded by her family.