By CoinWeek News Staff …..
On Tuesday, February 9, United States Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Ben Sasse (R-NE) wrote a bipartisan letter to newly installed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urging the Treasury to prioritize the Tubman $20 redesign before working on other scheduled redesigns.
The Senators wrote:
Never in the history of our nation has a woman or person of color been depicted on any denomination of our paper currency [An inaccurate statement. —CoinWeek]. Portraying a woman on one of the most important symbols of American society recognizes the contributions of the full diversity of significant American historical figures, including women. Congressional support for these efforts exists as well, as exemplified by this letter and others like it as well as legislation that has been previously introduced.
Most recently, after a lengthy process of public input, including thousands of public comments, the Department announced in 2016 plans for a series of changes to our paper currency, including that it had selected Harriet Tubman to be depicted on the $20 bill during the next redesign of that denomination. Our understanding, corroborated by public reporting, is that much of the work of that redesign was well underway, when the previous Administration indicated it would not be moving forward with the update in 2020.
We hope sincerely that is no longer the case, and encourage the prioritization of Ms. Tubman before working on other redesigns. We stand ready to offer any support for your efforts to ensure this towering figure in our nation’s history receives the recognition she has deserved for so long. Our currency tells the story of our nation, and it is long past due for Ms. Tubman’s part of that story to be told.
Accordingly, we urge the Department under your leadership to move swiftly with this redesign so these notes can enter circulation as quickly as possible.
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was a 19th-century abolitionist figure who served as a Union spy during the American Civil War and spent her later years campaigning for women’s suffrage.
After a year-long public campaign to redesign the $20 bill, On April 20, 2016, Obama Treasury Secretary Jacob “Jack” Lew announced that a portrait of Civil Rights pioneer Harriet Tubman would replace the long-serving portrait of controversial president Andrew Jackson as part of the government’s observation of the centennial of Woman’s Suffrage. In the announcement, Lew announced that the new Tubman $20 would be accompanied by redesigned $5 and $10 notes as well. The timing of Lew’s directive meant that the redesigned notes would not be released until the next administration took office.
After Donald J. Trump was elected president on November 8, 2016, the status of the Tubman $20 bill redesign became an open question. Trump heaped praise on both Tubman and Andrew Jackson at an NBC Today Show town hall held on April 21, 2016–the day after Lew’s announcement–but called the plan “pure political correctness.”
Then on January 24, 2017, Trump had a painting of Jackson hung in the Oval Office.
Lew’s successor, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, said in a CNBC interview, that the Tubman redesign “was not something [the Treasury Department] was focused on at the moment.”
With Trump’s election loss in November, these two U.S. senators want to make the redesign of the $20 bill a priority. If the Treasury takes up the issue, the Tubman redesign may be back in the works.