The face of legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman will adorn the $20 bill, thanks to a proposal put in place under Barack Obama’s administration. In 2016, Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson, a former slave owner and a president known for forcibly removing Native Americans through the “Trail of Tears.”
According to ABC 4, the idea to place Tubman on the $20 bill came from an 11-year-old girl named Sofia who wrote to President Obama in 2014. She wondered why there weren’t any women on the front of U.S. paper currency.
“If there were no women there wouldn’t be men,” the youngster argued in her compelling letter.
Fast forward to 2019, and the creation of the Tubman bill finally sprung into action. That year, Congressman John Kakto introduced the Harriet Tubman Tribute Act of 2019, a bill that would require the Treasury Department to redesign the $20 note to include Tubman.
“We don’t have a woman of color, we don’t have any person of color on any U.S. currency. It should not even be an issue, in my mind,” Kakto said in a statement.
Seeing Harriet Tubman’s face on the $20 bill will be monumental for many reasons. The Underground Railroad leader helped to free hundreds of slaves before the Civil War, all while carrying a massive bounty on her head. She was also a prominent voice in the Women’s Suffrage movement.
The construction of the Tubman $20 bill is currently underway, but it may take some time for the note to be released. Here’s what we know so far about the process.
It will probably be years before we see the Underground Railroad conductor grace the front of the $20 bill. According to the New York Times, the new $20 bill won’t be released until 2030. Why you ask? Well, the release date was set by an anti-counterfeiting committee in 2013. Officials from the committee needed time to test counterfeiting and safety protocols on the forthcoming note.
In 2020, the Obama administration promised to inveil a design concept to mark the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The Treasury made a few edits to the design in 2019, but the development stalled when former president Donald Trump stepped into office. Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s Treasury secretary, pushed the design project back to 2026.
The process to create a new currency requires a lot of work and time
Here’s the other problem.
Designing a new currency is a lengthy and daunting process. When the Treasury Department develops a new note, the design must be approved by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The department structures the note with “security features” that help to fight against counterfeiting and fraud, according to the Grio.
Tubman’s bill will require a manufacturing test to ensure it can be accepted during transactions and dispensed at local and international banks.
“The primary reason currency is redesigned is for security against counterfeiting,” Lydia Washington, a representative for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing told DealBook. “The redesign timeline is driven by security feature development.”
In a letter sent in 2021, Mnuchin claimed the note would be reviewed soon during an audit of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s design process.
The Biden Administration promised to speed up the production of the bill
During a White House press conference in 2021, former press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden Administration was working fast to expedite the production of the $20 Tubman bill.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new twenty-dollar notes,” she said. “It’s important that our notes, our money – if people don’t know what a note is – reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
So far, nothing has materialized.
Well, we know for certain Harriet Tubman’s face will be on the $20 bill, but it might be a while before we see the finished product.