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The White House will resume the Obama-era push to put Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 bill, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Psaki said in response to a reporter’s question during the daily briefing. “It’s important that our … money reflects the history and diversity of our country and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that.”
Harriet Tubman, born into slavery, was a 19th-century abolitionist and “conductor” of the Underground Railroad, risking her life to rescue dozens of enslaved people and bring them to freedom after she escaped herself. Tubman learned the escape houses and secret routes throughout the Underground Railroad, making her an asset to the Union military during the Civil War, according to the National Women’s History Museum. Tubman also joined the fight for women’s suffrage after the Civil War ended.
In 2016, the Obama administration set out to redesign the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson, who enslaved people and both fought Native Americans and forced them to move from their land. The Obama administration was hoping for a release of the new bill in 2020 to mark the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote, a right that could at that point be exercised mainly by White women.
The project to get Tubman represented on the currency was delayed during the Trump administration. In the spring of 2019, then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said “counterfeit issues” would make it impossible to unveil Harriet Tubman on the bill by 2020, the deadline set by the Obama administration. Trump, who put Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office, had criticized changing the image on the bill, saying it was being done out of “pure political correctness.”
Psaki said that the Biden administration doesn’t have a set deadline for the release of the new bill but that the administration is working on it.
“We’re exploring ways to speed up that effort but any specifics would of course come from the Department of Treasury,” said Psaki.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.