Harriet Tubman, around 1870
HB Lindsey | Underwood Archives | Getty Images
The Biden administration is set to revive the push to make Harriet Tubman the face of a new $ 20 bill, an effort halted during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
“We’re looking for ways to accelerate these efforts,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday after being asked if the new administration would take up the Obama-era initiative.
An updated $ 20 bill featuring Tubman, the former slave who became an icon of the abolitionist movement, was originally due to be unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
But Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced during a 2019 congressional hearing that the redesign would be delayed until 2028. Mnuchin said at the time that the main reason for redesigning a currency was to combat counterfeiting efforts.
Psaki said Monday that the Treasury Department is “taking steps to resume efforts” to put Tubman’s image on the front of the new $ 20 bills.
It is important that the bills “reflect the history and diversity of our country,” said Psaki, “and Harriet Tubman’s picture on the new $ 20 bill would certainly reflect that.”
Tubman’s face on the bill would replace that of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president. Trump was such a huge fan of Jackson that he showed a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office. Joe Biden, who took office last Wednesday, removed the painting.
Before his election, Trump had described the plan to replace Jackson with Tubman as “pure political correctness”.
A finance spokeswoman reiterated Psaki’s remarks in a separate statement to CNBC. Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary under former President Barack Obama who led efforts to get Tubman to $ 20, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Redesigning the invoice is a complicated process that takes time and requires more changes than just a simple face swap. For example, it took 11 years to develop the blue security stripe that now adorns the $ 100 bill.
A new high-speed printing facility is required to produce the new $ 20 banknotes with robust anti-counterfeiting technology and other security measures, currently planned for 2025.
Concepts for an updated $ 50 bill are under development.