The United States Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, has announced that there will be several huge changes to our current paper currency. The $10 bill will be the first to change. While Alexander Hamilton, who was America’s first Secretary of the Treasury, will remain on the face of the bill, the back will change to now display women who led the women’s suffrage movement. The next bill to change will be the $5 bill. President Abraham Lincoln will continue to be featured on the face of the bill, but the back of this bill will also change. The $5 bill will no longer show the Lincoln Memorial on the back. Instead, it will display a number of influential people from the civil rights movement.
But these changes are minor compared to what will be happening on the $20 bill. For the first time in over 100 years, the U.S. will be featuring the portrait of a woman on the face of a bill. Thus, replacing Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 bill will be Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was a slave who herself escaped slavery and went on to become one of the most famous abolitionists. After escaping, Tubman returned to the South approximately 19 times to free more slaves herself. Tubman also continued her mission as an abolitionist, helping hundreds of people through the Underground Railroad, which was a secret group of routes and safe houses used to help slaves escape the South. Tubman also worked for the Union Government during the Civil War as a spy and a nurse. After the war had ended, she turned her home into the Home for Indigent and Aged Negroes, continuing her mission to help those in need.
The new bills won’t actually be released into circulation for at least another ten years, but the fact that they have been officially changed marks a large victory in the name of representation and inclusion in the black community. Dyáni Brown has been pushing for these changes for a long time. “It means something. It’s something that everybody sees,” she said.
The $20 bill is the third-most widely circulated bill, following in the footsteps of the $1 and $100 bills. Jackson made the face of the $20 in 1928, due to his own prominent effect on American history. Jackson was responsible for the signing of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. This act gave the government permission to force thousands of Native Americans off their lands onto reservations. In conjunction with the act, in 1838, the Cherokee nation was forced to hand over all of the land they owned east of the Mississippi River. They migrated over 2,200 miles to what was called “Indian Territory”, which is in present-day Oklahoma. This migration coined the name ‘Trail of Tears’ because of the great loss experienced by those who migrated. Many lives were lost because of disease, starvation and exhaustion. The Cherokee’s began their trek with 15,000 people and ended with almost 4,000 less.
In reality, honoring Jackson seems a bit sacrilegious, but his face will continue to be on the back of the $20 bill. Most people have been excited about the changes to the bill, but of course, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. Steven Thrasher wrote in The Guardian last year, "Putting Tubman’s face on the $20 would only obfuscate how much exploitation there is still left to fight in America, among those in prison, nail salons — and those exchanging twenties daily who don’t even know it. We should not let her be used to distract black and brown people from our present economic bondage every time we pay for something." Nevertheless, putting a woman’s face – and a woman of color at that – on any currency is a definite step in the right direction.