American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known for delivering enslaved persons to freedom, may not be memorialized on the $20 bill after all.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declined Aug. 31 to commit to placing Tubman’s likeness on the front of the bill, saying there were “more important issues to focus on,” according to CNBC.
This image provided by the Library of Congress shows Harriet Tubman, between 1860 and 1875. A Treasury official said Wednesday, April 20, 2016, that Secretary Jacob Lew has decided to put Tubman on the $20 bill, making her the first woman on U.S. paper currency in 100 years. (H.B. Lindsley/Library of Congress via AP)
“Ultimately, we will be looking at the issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “The issues of why we change it will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes.”
The initial plan that was proposed in 2016 by President Barack Obama and then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew called for several design changes to the $20, $10, and $5 bills. Along with the change from President Andrew Jackson to Tubman on the front of the $20 bill to commemorate women and Blacks, it was suggested that Alexander Hamilton would remain on the front of the $10 bill, but the back would change to honor leaders in the women’s suffrage movement, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony.
Similarly, President Abraham Lincoln would stay on the front of the $5 bill with the back changing to an image of the Lincoln Memorial during the Civil Rights Movement.
“Well, Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Trump told NBC in 2016. “I think Harriet Tubman is fantastic, but I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination.”
During his 2016 campaign speech, Trump suggested Tubman replace Jefferson on the less common $2 bill. Trump is known for being an avid supporter of Jackson, who was a slave owner.
“The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old,” Lew said in a letter in 2016. “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. … Looking back on her life, Tubman once said, ‘I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.’ And she did fight, for the freedom of slaves and for the right of women to vote. 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.”
If the artistic style of the bill is changed by 2020—according to the proposed timeline—Harriet Tubman would be the first woman and African-American on common currency.