U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has announced some major changes coming to paper currency.
America’s first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, will remain on the $10 bill (don’t say Broadway never changed anything), but the back of the note will feature leaders of the women’s suffrage movement.
While President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the face of the $5 bill, key figures from the civil rights movement will be prominently featured on the other side.
But the landmark news is that Harriet Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
After more than 100 years of printing money, this will be the first U.S. paper note to feature the portrait of a woman.
Tubman, who escaped slavery and became an abolitionist, returned to the South at least 19 times to free slaves. She went on to lead hundreds of people to freedom along the Underground Railroad, a network of routes and safe houses. During the Civil War, Tubman worked as a spy and nurse for the Union government. After the war, she continued to help black people by turning her home into the Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes.
While the bills won’t reach circulation for another decade, this is a huge victory for representation and inclusion.
Dyáni Brown, who long pushed for a woman to appear on the $20, said it best:
After the $1 and $100 bills, the $20 bill is the third-most widely circulated note.
But Jackson, who booted President Grover Cleveland from the $20 in 1928, has long been a polarizing figure in American history.
In 1830, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which allowed the U.S. government to forcibly remove thousands of Native Americans from their land. As part of Jackson’s policy, beginning in fall 1838, the Cherokee nation had to hand over their land east of the Mississippi River and migrate more than 2,200 miles to designated “Indian Territory” in present-day Oklahoma. The forced migration, now known as the Trail of Tears, was treacherous. Many faced disease, extreme hunger, and exhaustion. Of the 15,000 who were forced west, nearly 4,000 died along the way.
While there is no reason to continue to honor this man on the face of our money, Jackson will remain on the back of the bill.
People from across the country have been pushing the Treasury Department to remove Jackson from the $20 note and to include a woman on the face of a bill. Now, it’s happening in one fell swoop.
Needless to say, the internet is pretty excited about the announcement.
…to witty writers…
…and familiar faces.
While most people are heralding the announcement, some argue it’s not the best way to honor Tubman’s legacy.
In a column last year in The Guardian, Steven Thrasher wrote:
“Putting Tubman’s face on the $20 would only obfuscate how much exploitation there is still left to fight in America, among those in prison, nail salons — and those exchanging twenties daily who don’t even know it. We should not let her be used to distract black and brown people from our present economic bondage every time we pay for something.”
But when it comes to representation, seeing a woman — particularly a woman of color — in a space we’ve been kept out of is a major step forward and a milestone worth celebrating.
Hear Dyáni share why she pushed to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman on the $20 bill.
This video is an Upworthy Original.
Check out Women on 20s to stay up to date on the latest news about this announcement. Since the bill may not hit circulation for more than a decade, their push for equality is far from over.