Anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman makes history again. She will be the first woman and first African American to appear on a major U.S. currency note.
Tubman, an escaped slave who helped to free others, will be featured on the front of the new $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president, a slaveholder.
Jackson’s image will be on the back of the re-designed $20 note.
“Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said April 20 when he announced the changes.
Tubman was born into slavery. After she escaped from slavery, Tubman returned to slaveholding states many times to help lead other slaves safely to Northern free states and to Canada. Later she fought for women’s right to vote.
But what about Hamilton?
The Treasury Department’s decision in 2015 to put a woman on a U.S. currency note has captivated the country.
The initial proposal was to put a woman on the $10 bill, which currently features a portrait of Alexander Hamilton, who helped create the U.S. banking system.
But Hamilton is now a wildly popular Broadway hip-hop musical about that Founding Father, from his early life an orphan in the Caribbean through his death (spoiler alert!) in a duel at the hands of Vice President (!!) Aaron Burr in 1804.
Many people told the Treasury Department that Hamilton, the first U.S. treasury secretary, should stay on the $10 bill and instead suggested removing Jackson from the $20 bill, noting that Jackson owned slaves and was instrumental in moving Native Americans off their land.
The musical’s creator and star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, urged Secretary Lew to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill. After meeting him last month, Miranda tweeted that the treasury secretary had told him, “You’re going to be very happy.” Indeed. Many people are.
Hamilton will stay on the front of the $10 note. On the reverse, the redesigned $10 bill will honor the leaders of the suffrage movement — Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul.
The reverse of the new $5 bill will honor events at the Lincoln Memorial that helped shape U.S. history and individuals at those events, including Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.
President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the $5 bill.
The final designs for the new $20, $10 and $5 notes will all be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.