African-American abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson on the front of US $20 bill. And a portrait of Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury secretary and the subject of a hit musical now on Broadway, will remain on the front of the $10 bill.
As part of an announced overhaul of the design for the $5, $10 and $20 notes, Tubman’s appearance on the $20 will mark the first time in more than 100 years that a woman will figure on the front of a US bill.
“Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embodies the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates, and we will continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency,” US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement on the change.
Born into slavery in 1820 on Maryland’s eastern shore, Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. But she repeatedly returned to the south to guide some 300 escaped slaves to freedom in the north, utilizing the system of safe houses and way stations known as the Underground Railroad. She died in upstate New York in 1913.
Tubman’s image will be replacing that of the seventh president of the US, Andrew Jackson, a populist leader and hero of the War of 1812, who built his personal fortune as a large-scale slaveholder in Tennessee. Jackson is known in part for signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced all eastern Native Americans to move west of the Mississippi River. It culminated in the 1838 removal of roughly 15,000 Cherokee people from Georgia to Oklahoma. Some 4,000 died along the forced march, which became known as the Trail of Tears. Jackson’s image will, however, feature on the reverse of the $20 note.
Last June, Lew announced that Hamilton’s portrait on the $10 would be replaced with a portrait of a woman. But that plan ran into opposition, amid a surprise upsurge in popularity for Hamilton, who is the subject of an eponymous musical which won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for drama earlier this week. The reverse side of the $10 will be redesigned to showcase leaders of the women’s suffrage movement Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.
The Treasury also announced alterations to the $5 bill. The bill will continue to feature President Abraham Lincoln on the front. But the reverse side of the note will depict images related to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., including African American opera singer Marian Anderson’s performance at the memorial in 1939 and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech delivered there as part of the March on Washington in 1963.
Jackson has been on the $20 bill since 1928. (The position was previously held by Grover Cleveland.)
The redesign of the new bills won’t be unveiled until 2020, and the design process is currently underway. In a conference call announcing the changes, Lew repeatedly said he had directed the US Bureau of Printing and Engraving to accelerate the process of producing the notes. But he also stressed the importance of meeting security requirements for the new bills.