Harriet Tubman

President Biden Putting Harriet Tubman on the New $20 Bill, Begging the Question ‘Who Is Harriet Tubman?’

Changes are coming to your cash. The Treasury Department has announced it is “taking steps to resume efforts” to put Harriet Tubman on $20 bills. Tubman is the former slave known for using a secret system called the Underground Railroad to help slaves reach freedom safely in the 1800s.

“It’s important that our notes, our money — if people don’t know what a note is — reflect the history and diversity of our country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters recently. “And Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”

The new, woke currency has been a long time in the making. In 2015, the Treasury Department asked the public who should replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. In an online poll, Harriet Tubman received more than 100,000 votes and became the chosen face of the bill. It was meant to debut in tandem with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

But in 2019, then-president Trump tried to move Harriet Tubman to the elusive $2 bill. (Talk about devaluing women!) When that didn’t work, he put the project on the slow train, with an ETA of 2028! (Even longer than it would take an actual train to go, well, anywhere.)

Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to spin the delay this way: “The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues. Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028. The $10 bill and the $50 bill will come out with new features beforehand.”

We see what you did there, Steve.

But now decency has returned to the White House and the Harriet Tubman currency is coming to fruition…eventually. While we wholeheartedly endorse these new dolla dolla bills, the cynic in us wonders how many young and/or ignorant white people are currently asking “Harriet who?”

All we can do is shake our heads and refer them to those dusty history books they never cracked open in high school. (For the reading averse, there’s also the 2019 film Harriet starring Cynthia Erivo.) Maybe if you weren’t allowed to pay with a $20 bill until you recited who Tubman was, people would bother to educate themselves on one of history’s most important Black women. The rest of us know Harriet Tubman’s worth, and they don’t make dollar bills that big.

Cover Photo: US Department of the Treasury

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