Not Everyone is Thrilled About Harriet Tubman Appearing on $20 Bill

Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist who helped free thousand of slaves in the 1800's. Photo by H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress

Harriet Tubman, an abolitionist who helped free thousand of slaves in the 1800’s. Photo by H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress

On Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman, a Black woman who led thousands of enslaved people to freedom, will appear on the $20 bill. She will replace Andrew Jackson, who was a slave holder, on the newly designed note.

Per the Department of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton will stay on the face of the $10 bill.

According to the New York Times, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will debut the new designs in 2020, just in time to mark the 100th year of women’s suffrage and the addition of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The bills depicting other female and civil rights leaders won’t be circulated until the next decade, however.

After today’s news that Tubman would be placed on the $20 bill, Rep. John Katko (NY-24), who submitted the bipartisan legislation in the House to have the anti-slavery activist’s face appear on a Federal Reserve Note, expressed his delight with the decision in a statement released on his website.

“It is far past time that our currency honor and celebrate the accomplishments of American women,” he said.  “Today’s historic announcement that the U.S. Treasury will feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is tremendous news for Central New York, and especially for Auburn – a place that Harriet Tubman called home.”

Katko continues, “This designation is a fitting tribute to a woman who escaped slavery and devoted her life to advancing the freedom and equality of African Americans and the rights of women.  With today’s announcement, Harriet Tubman’s legacy, courage, and commitment to others will be forever enshrined on our U.S. Currency.  I commend the many advocacy groups, especially those in Cayuga County, who have worked tirelessly to encourage the U.S. Treasury to feature this iconic woman on the $20 bill.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew was unsure of how women’s groups would react to the news, as they’ve criticized him in the past for going back on his promise to put a woman on the $10 bill, which will still display Alexander Hamilton. Lew made the choice to keep Hamilton on the face of the bill, as the critically acclaimed Broadway play has sparked new-found popularity with the Founding Father. Instead, the images of female leaders will be placed on the back of the bill.

Women on 20’s, an organization that lobbied for a female to appear on the $20 bill, said it would only declare victory if the note was redesigned at the same time as the $10 bill, which is currently undergoing an anti-counterfeiting makeover.

“We see today’s announcement as only a vague commitment and a continuation of the now familiar message that women have to settle for less and wait for their fair share,” Barbara Ortiz, founder of the group, told USA Today.

Ortiz wasn’t the only one unhappy about the announcement.

In stark contrast, many others took to Twitter to express their excitement about Tubman gracing the redesigned $20 note.

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