African American Harriet Tubman to Be Face of New Twenty Dollar Bill

Possible redesign of $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman's image on front

Possible redesign of $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman’s image on front

The Treasury Department announced that the $20 bill will be redesigned and African American Harriet Tubman’s image will appear on the front of it. Former president Andrew Jackson, whose image is currently on the front of the $20 bill, will be featured on the back of the bill where he’ll be incorporated into an existing image of the White House.

Tubman will be the first African American to be shown on the front of U.S. paper money. Born a slave around 1822, Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She returned to the South at least 19 times to help bring around 300 run-away slaves to freedom through the network of safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. During the Civil War she served the Union Army as spy, scout, and recruiter of slaves as soldiers. Later in life, she worked with Susan B. Anthony and others for women’s suffrage.

Jackson was elected president as a war hero, winning the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. However, during his presidency the Indian Removal Act resulted in what became known as the “Trail of Tears” when troops forced Native Americans on “death marches” from their ancestral homes in the Southeast to western reservations. One fourth of the Cherokees died in the process. Death tolls were also high for other Native Americans forced to relocate in the West, among them Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Muscogee-Creek.

The $5 and $10 bills will also be redesigned. President Lincoln’s image will remain on the front of the $5 bill; however, the back will be redesigned to not only display the image of the Lincoln Memorial but also to depict two events that occurred there: African American opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert and Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt may also be included on the back of the $5 bill. Hamilton’s image will remain on the front of the $10 bill but the back will have images of leaders of the women’s suffrage movement such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Sojourner Truth.

The bills will be redesigned by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, and will be put into production at various times over the next decade. Incorporated in the new bills will be security features that make the bills harder to counterfeit and tactile features that make them easier for blind citizens to distinguish.

In an open letter to the American people, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said of the upcoming changes, “Our currency will now tell more of our story and reflect the contributions of women as well as men to our great democracy.”

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