HomeHarriet Tubman $20 Bill Back on Track Under Biden Administration

Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Back on Track Under Biden Administration

Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Back on Track Under Biden Administration
Harriet Tubman $20 Bill Back on Track Under Biden Administration

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….

After four years of delay under the previous administration, President Joseph R. Biden’s Treasury Department is set to resume plans to place Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki revealed the news in response to a reporter’s question at a press briefing on Monday, January 25, stressing the importance of diversity on our nation’s currency.

These statements were later confirmed to reporters for cable new network CNBC by a Treasury Department spokesperson.

And while the public must wait on the Treasury for more details, it is known that the portrait of Harriet Tubman–the famed African American abolitionist, civil rights activist, and a former slave–would specifically replace that of Andrew Jackson–the seventh President of the United States and a slaveowner–on the $20 Federal Reserve Note. Production of the new notes is also contingent on the construction of a new high-speed printing facility in the Washington, D.C. area. The new facility is not expected to be finished and online until 2025 at the earliest.

The Story Thus Far

In 2013, the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) Committee examined all currently circulating U.S. paper money and, based on a number of factors (such as utility and vulnerability to counterfeiting), the committee decided that the $10 Federal Reserve Note should be redesigned first. With work on the $10 bill already underway, this was the situation at the Treasury Department when the not-for-profit campaign Women on 20s gained traction on social media. The goal of the organization, founded by Barbara Ortiz Howard and Susan Ades Stone, was to place a notable American woman on the $20 bill in time for the 2020 centenary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote.

After an online voting process, Harriet Tubman was the winning choice, with 118,328 votes out of 609,090.

The release of a new $20 design would boost the collectibility of notes bearing the obsolete Jackson designs. Illustrated above is a Series of 1934D Star Note. Image: Stack’s Bowers.

The social media campaign and subsequent news coverage convinced the Obama Administration to take action. After some back and forth on which note to redesign, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack Lew announced that plans were underway to place Tubman on the $20.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump made his displeasure about the Harriet Tubman redesign well known, calling it “pure political correctness.” He also made public statements directly supporting the retention of a portrait of Jackson on the bill.

In response to questioning by Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-MA7) at a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday, May 22, 2019, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that the release of designs for the new $20 bill had been pushed to 2028.

“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said. “Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand.”

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Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker has served as the Assistant Editor of CoinWeek.com since 2015. Along with co-author Charles Morgan, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the monthly column "Market Whimsy" for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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