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U.S. Treasury Presses Pause On Harriet Tubman’s Debut Again

U.S. Treasury Presses Pause On Harriet Tubman’s Debut Again

By Fredrick Lee

  • Harriet Tubman was scheduled to appear on the $20 bill in 2020

  • The new $20 bill is now scheduled for 2028

The United States Department of Treasury has delayed abolitionist Harriet Tubman from making her debut on the $20 bill. In 2020, Tubman’s image was to replace former President Andrew Jackson in honor of the 19th amendment which gave American women the right to vote. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin stated that the delay is due to changes to the counterfeit features on the redesigned bill. However, his action has Congress asking several questions.

Harriet Tubman:USD.jpg

Why This Matters: The timeline to redesign a currency can take a few months to more than 15 years, and the current delay would push the issuance of the Tubman currency to around 2028. Congress is questioning the delay and asked the Treasury’s Office of Inspector General to review. This is no short process, since the Inspector General’s 10-month review will look into security measures at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to determine whether the delays are valid.

The Inspector General’s 10-month review will look into security measures at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to determine whether the delays are valid

Here’s a quick timeline of how we got to this point. In 2016, then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson as part of a planned redesign of the $20 bill. The former slave, abolitionist, Union spy, and conductor of the Underground Railroad would have marked a milestone for the U.S. She would be the first African American and woman to appear on a U.S. currency. 

If we look to the North, Canada has featured an African American woman on its currency in honor of her contributions to civil rights in the country. Last March, Viola Desmond became the first black person to appear on Canadian currency, she's also the first woman to appear alone who's not a British royal. 

Situational Awareness: Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 bill should give African Americans a sense of pride and honor for contributions to the U.S. The delay does give pause to the United States’ willingness to acknowledge the contributions made by iconic figures such as Harriet Tubman, and leaves us wondering will this happen in our lifetime.

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