Paper Money

Harriet Tubman $20 note still 10 years from becoming reality

An image of Harriett Tubman discovered in 2017 for possible use on the revised $20 note.

Original photo courtesy of Swann Galleries

The Harriet Tubman $20 Federal Reserve note jumped back into the news with a vengeance on June 11 when New York Times economic policy reporter Alan Rappeport wrote about Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s latest statement on the proposed note.

Earlier that day, Mnuchin said at a news briefing that there would not be a new $20 bill until 2030, that the decision about replacing Andrew Jackson would be made by a future Treasury secretary, and that the accusation that he was responsible for the delay was a “myth.”

Secretary Mnuchin has the responsibility for selecting the designs on United States currency. His department’s website says “Unless specified by an Act of Congress, the Secretary generally has the final approval. This is done with the advice of Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) officials.”

During the Obama administration, Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew unveiled a plan under which a new design for the $20 Federal Reserve note would be revealed in 2020, on the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution, which established women’s suffrage. He also outlined plans for similar dramatic changes to the $5 and $10 notes.

Mnuchin said that the next bill to be redesigned and released will be the $10 note, in 2026, and although he appears to be running away from a decision about Andrew Jackson, he suggested that he had given no consideration to replacing Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the Treasury, on the $10 note.

He added that “redesigning the currency required developing complicated anticounterfeiting technology and a new printing process, which takes many years.”

He gave no opinion on whether Tubman should be on a new note, but, the Times noted, he compared changing money to altering monuments in Washington.

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