Two sides of history: Representation through the $20 Bill

February 8, 2021


Prototype of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. The US Department of the Treasury is currently planning a design for the front of the bill. Former Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin set the release date for 2028, but since then, President Biden has urged for the design to be released sooner.

Controversy has surrounded the $20 bill for years, with many people arguing that former president Andrew Jackson, the current face of the bill, should be replaced with someone more representative of American history: Harriet Tubman.

This initiative was first introduced by former president Barack Obama in 2015 with hopes that the new bill would be unveiled in 2020, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The redesign came after many citizens questioned whether Jackson should grace the bill considering his harsh treatment of Native Americans and other wrongdoings. 

However, in 2019, former Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnunchin announced that the redesign of the bill would be delayed until 2028 due to concerns around imitation fraud. On  Jan. 25, Jen Psaki, President Biden’s press secretary, announced the reintroduction of these efforts to feature Tubman on the bill. 

Psaki shared how the Biden administration aims to be more inclusive and united as a nation, and how the design of the bill can reflect that. “It is important that our …. money reflect[s] the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that,” she said. “We are exploring ways to speed up that effort.”

Senior Amber Matthews reflects over the efforts of placing a Black woman on the bill. “I am forever saddened by the things she’s been through and how we are just recognizing her accomplishments. But the efforts to put her on the bill now, will ensure that her efforts will not be forgotten in the future,” she said.

Many call to honor Tubman’s historical significance before and throughout the Civil War in her fight to free enslaved people, as opposed to shedding light on Jackson’s mistreatment of Native and Black Americans by having him on the front of the bill. 

Junior Will Fairman does not believe that the $20 bill should reflect Jackson and his actions. “Andrew Jackson was not an ethical president. He displaced and caused the destruction of many Native Americans,” he commented. 

Matthews thought similarly. “Andrew Jackson’s principles do not exactly match up with what some people stand for today in America,” she shared. 

The US Department of the Treasury currently continues planning the design of the new $20 bill with Tubman on the front. It is still unclear whether Jackson will remain on the back of the bill.

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