Paper Money

Still no word on whether there will be a Tubman note

Harriet Tubman was selected to appear on the next $20 Federal Reserve note by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, but his replacement, Steven Mnuchin, has not publicly committed to supporting that decision.

Original photo courtesy of Swann Galleries.

It is unclear whether Harriet Tubman will ever find a place on U.S. paper money, as a decision made under the previous administration remains in limbo.

When Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was specifically asked about his plans for the $20 Federal Reserve note on Jan. 12, he avoided giving a straight answer, Donna Borak reported on CNN Money.

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Mnuchin was attending an event at the Economic Club of Washington, where he said in an interview, “We haven’t made any decisions on whether we will change the bill or won’t change the bill.” 

He went on to add the obvious, that his primary focus was security, not design. Usually, a bank note’s security devices are integrated into its design.

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A new $20 note, featuring abolitionist Harriet Tubman, was scheduled for release in 2020, per order of the Treasury secretary in the Obama administration, Jacob Lew, who ordered that the $5, $10, and $20 notes be redesigned. 

He ordered that a portrait of Tubman replace that of Andrew Jackson on the $20 note, with Jackson shifted to the back. 

Although Alexander Hamilton was to remain on the face of the new $10 note, the vignette of the Treasury Department building on the back was to become the backdrop to an image of the March 3, 1913, march for suffrage that ended on the steps of the Treasury Building, and the design was going to honor the leaders of the suffrage movement — Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.

Under Lew’s plans, the $5 note was to keep a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, while the back, retaining the Lincoln Memorial, was to show events held there that helped to shape American history and democracy. Included would be some of the people involved in those events, such as Marian Anderson and Martin Luther King Jr.

Some references to the $20 note, as well as the proposed new $5 and $10 denominations, saluting women’s suffrage and civil rights, have been wiped clean from all government websites, as if they never existed.

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