Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.
In a call with reporters, Lew said the back of the $20 will feature an image of the White House as well as an image of Jackson. Lew said the image may reflect a statue of Jackson that sits in Lafayette Square, located across from the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington.
Lew also announced that leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote will be featured on the back of the $10 bill. Alexander Hamilton will remain the face of that bill. A new design of the back of the $5 bill will reflect historic moments that took place at the Lincoln Memorial, like Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
Lew and U.S. Treasurer Rosa Rios said the Treasury Department has "every intention and commitment" to reveal the new designs of all three bills by 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Lew and Rios said the $10 will be the first to go into circulation, due to security needs.
Lew and Rios did not give an exact timeline for the circulation of the new $20 and $5, saying the process would begin as soon as technology and security issues would allow.
Lew said he made the decision to make Tubman the new face of the $20 after hearing from the American people through roundtables, town halls and in online discussions.
"We heard from a lot of people who had different ideas about what should go on which bill, what should go on the front, what should be on the back, and we've taken the view that, A) we couldn't wait, and B) the next bill that comes out has to tell a powerful story," Lew told reporters.
"The life of Harriet Tubman is really one of the great American stories," Lew added later, noting that Tubman "was not well compensated for much of her life."
As the Wall Street Journal pointed out Tuesday, Lew said in a memo to President Barack Obama in 2015 that he intended to remove Hamilton from the $10, replacing him with Susan B. Anthony. Lew also noted in that memo that he wanted to suspend production of the penny.
According to The New York Times, women's groups were worried Hamilton would remain on the front of the $10 bill thanks to the popularity of the Broadway musical about him, which won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote and stars in "Hamilton," tweeted in March that he had spoken to Lew about the currency change.
There's been an ongoing push to get a woman on currency, with a nonprofit campaign called Women on 20s leading the push to put a woman on the $20 by 2020. Tubman was the winner of a 10-week poll conducted by the group in 2015, beating out Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and others by taking 33.6 percent of the 352,431 votes cast in the final round of the poll.
Women On 20s Founder Barbara Ortiz Howard said in a statement that the group wants to see the new bills in circulation sooner rather than later. “It’s time to get the party started honoring women on the new $10 and a new $20 in time for 2020," she said.
Lawmakers have also joined the movement, with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) introducing a bill in April 2015 to get a woman on the $20 bill. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced a bill the same month that would require Lew to take a recommendation from citizens on a woman whose image could replace Andrew Jackson’s on the $20 bill.
Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Stacey Plaskett (D-V.I.) penned an open letter to Lew in August, saying "there is still more to be done when it comes to gender equality." The two led a group of 64 lawmakers that asked Lew to put a woman on the $20 while keeping Hamilton on the $10.
"[I]t is a disappointing message that Alexander Hamilton, one of the most influential interpreters of the U.S. Constitution, a passionate advocate for the abolition of slavery, and the founder of the nation’s financial system, will be removed from our currency while President Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder responsible for the Trail of Tears, fierce opponent of the central banking system, and paper currency, retains his place on the $20 bill," they wrote.
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