Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced Wednesday.
Following reports earlier in the day of the currency shake-up, Lew officially announced the plans in a press call and in an open letter to the American people that read:
“Today I am excited to announce that for the first time in more than a century, the front of our currency will feature the portrait of a woman – Harriet Tubman on the $20 note.”
Lew noted that the opposite side of the new $20 will continue to feature an image of Jackson as well as an image of the White House. Asked about critics who have argued that Jackson should be removed from the bill entirely, Lew replied that Jackson’s image will remain on the bill because of the former president’s “lasting impact on our country.”
Lew added that the decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 “was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old. I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.”
The redesigns for the new $20, $10, and $5 notes will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, Lew said.
Tubman is a celebrated civil rights leader who was born into slavery and helped families escape chains using the Underground Railroad. She later campaigned for women’s suffrage. She will be the first woman on the front of American paper currency in more than 100 years.
Along with the change to the $20, Lew announced that Alexander Hamilton – who has come back into vogue after becoming the subject of a hit Broadway musical – will remain on the front of the $10 bill while leaders of the women’s suffrage movement – including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul – will appear on the back.
The reverse of the $5 bill will also be altered to depict civil rights-era leaders such as Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr.
Last May, a nonprofit group called Women on 20s, suggested that the abolitionist replace Jackson on the $20 bill by the year 2020 – the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women in the US the right to vote.
Lew announced in June that a woman would grace the redesigned $10 bill in the year 2020.