Harriet Tubman to be first African-American on U.S. currency
WASHINGTON Anti-slavery crusader Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American to be featured on the face of U.S. paper currency when she replaces President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.She will also be the first woman on U.S. paper currency in more than a century. The U.S. Treasury is expected to announce the changes on Wednesday, spokesman Rob Runyan said in a telephone interview.The decision to replace the seventh president of the United States with Tubman, who was born a slave and helped hundreds of slaves escape using the Underground Railroad, followed public outreach by the Treasury Department regarding which woman should be featured on a bill.While no depictions of African-Americans have appeared on U.S. currency, the signatures of five African-Americans have been on it. Four were Registers of the Treasury and included Blanche K. Bruce, Judson W. Lyons, William T. Vernon and James C. Napier, and one was U.S. Treasurer Azie Taylor Morton.Native American Sacagawea has been featured on the gold dollar coin since 1999, and suffragist Susan B. Anthony has appeared on the silver dollar coin since 1979. Deaf-blind author and activist Helen Keller is on the back of the Alabama quarter, which was first issued in 2003.
Prompted partly by a young girl's letter to President Barack Obama about the lack of women on U.S. currency, a social media campaign last year called "Women on 20s" began pushing for a woman to replace Jackson. On Wednesday, the movement's leaders said they were "ready to claim victory" but only if the bill was issued by 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote.“What was to be a celebration of female American heroes ... cannot be postponed,” the group's founder Barbara Ortiz Howard said in a statement.Runyan could not say when the redesigned bill would be issued.
The women last depicted on U.S. bills were first lady Martha Washington on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896, and Native American Pocahontas in a group photo on the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869.The Treasury Department said in June that it would feature a woman on the $10 bill in place of one of the country's founding fathers Alexander Hamilton. But after the public disagreed, Hamilton will remain on the front of the $10 bill and a group of women will be on the reverse side, according to media reports. Changes will also be made to the $5 bill to depict civil rights era leaders, according to reports.
Harriet Tubman became the top-trending hashtag on Twitter shortly after the news broke, with more than 100,000 tweets and mentions online. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (@BPEricAdams) tweeted, “Having #HarrietTubman on the new $20 bill is a #milestone for our nation, a powerful acknowledgment of great #women and #AfricanAmericans.”Other users applauded Treasury’s decision to keep Hamilton on the $10 bill, which is a decision many say was because of the popular, Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical “Hamilton,” created by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Actress Mara Wilson (@MaraWritesStuff) tweeted Miranda on Wednesday stating, “@Lin_Manuel First you win a Pulitzer, now you're affecting US currency. Get some rest!" (Reporting by Megan Cassella; additional reporting by Timothy Ahmann in Washington and Gina Cherelus and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Bernard Orr and Toni Reinhold)