To Prevent an ‘Uproar’, Trump’s Treasury Secretary Is Delaying the New Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Until the President Is Out of Office

The bill was supposed to be released in 2020.

Yann Guitton, Harriet Tubman from the
Yann Guitton, Harriet Tubman from the "Outsized Artifacts" series. Photo by Yann Guitton.

The new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman has been delayed, leaving Andrew Jackson to remain in his place on the currency until 2028, secretary of the treasury Steven Mnuchin announced yesterday. The bill featuring Tubman, an escaped slave who later led others to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, was set to be unveiled in 2020, which would have coincided with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, another cause that Tubman supported.

Mnuchin cited “security feature redesign” and anti-counterfeiting efforts as the reason for the delay. But the New York Times reported that “Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said.”

Now, the new bill, announced by former President Barack Obama in 2016, is being postponed until 2026 and won’t enter circulation until 2028.

The move doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In June, the treasury department said that the bill’s redesign was still in the early stages, and renderings were removed from the department website in 2017. Trump has also made known his ambivalence about the decision to replace Jackson, who owned slaves and whose forced relocation of Native Americans led to the deaths of tens of thousands on the Trail of Tears.

A rendering of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill. Courtesy of Women on $20s.

A rendering of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill. Courtesy of Women on $20s.

“Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Trump told the Today show as a presidential candidate in 2016, suggesting that Tubman might appear on the discontinued $2 bill instead. “Andrew Jackson had a history of tremendous success for the country.” Although Tubman is “fantastic,” he added, the decision to replace Jackson’s face with hers was “pure political correctness.”

Tubman’s legacy continues to inspire Americans today. A photograph of a young African American girl reaching out to touch Tubman’s outstretched hand in an unfinished mural recently went viral and appeared on the Today show last week. The painting, by Michael Rosato, is a new addition to the Harriet Tubman Museum & Educational Center in Cambridge, Maryland, a site along the Harriet Tubman Byway commemorating the great abolitionist.

Lovie meets Harriet ❤ This picture was taken in downtown Cambridge, MD on Cannery Way. This mural is on the back wall…

Posted by Maiden Maryland on Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Women on $20s, a nonprofit group that advocates for putting a woman on the $20 bill, is undeterred by the delay in the Tubman bill. “They may think change won’t be coming, but it is sure gonna come,” the group wrote on Facebook. “The $20 isn’t safe, and folks want and need to honor the heroes that healed our country, not tore it apart.”

Separately, a planned redesign of the $10 bill will add portraits of suffragists including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Susan B. Anthony to the back of the Alexander Hamilton note. A woman has not appeared on paper currency since a $1 silver certificate featuring Martha Washington was phased out some time around the turn of the 20th century, according to the Atlantic.

When the Tubman bill was first announced in 2016, Rob Runyan, a spokesperson for the US Treasury, said that the timeline for the bill’s unveiling was sooner than expected. “Some people said it wouldn’t happen until 2030,” he told artnet News. Unfortunately, it appears they were right.


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