Harriet Tubman to Be New Face of $20 Bill; MLK and Marian Anderson to Be Honored on Back of New $5 Bill

An image of a $20 bill with the face of Harriet Tubman added to it that has been circulating online

Harriet Tubman will be replacing President Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 bill, the Treasury Department confirmed Wednesday. But Tubman is not the only civil rights icon set to be honored on U.S. currency. 

Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew said during a press call Wednesday that the $5 bill will also be redesigned and will feature images from the civil rights movement, historic events that occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, including Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and a 1939 performance by opera singer Marian Anderson. President Abraham Lincoln will remain the face of the $5 bill. 


Although Tubman will replace Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, Jackson's image will still be featured on the back of the bill and will be commingled in some way with the image of the White House.

First U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton will remain the face of the $10 bill, but the back of it "will honor the story and the heroes of the women's suffrage movement against the backdrop of the Treasury Building," Lew said. Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul are among the women who will be included on the bill.

"Our currency will now tell more of our story and reflect the contributions of women as well as men to our great democracy," Lew said.

The Treasury Department has scheduled the new designs for the three bills to be released in 2020, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote. Circulation of the bills is set to begin at a later date. Lew said that he has asked the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, along with the Federal Reserve, to accelerate the process of producing the new $5, $10 and $20 bills for circulation as quickly as possible "while ensuring that we protect against counterfeiting through effective and sophisticated production." 


Lew recounted the thought process that went into the final decision to place Tubman on the front of the $20 bill. 

"The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old, he said.


"I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy," Lew said. "Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embodies the ideals and democracy that our nation celebrates, and we will continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency."

Lew acknowledged that there were other suggestions for the face of the $20 bill, but Tubman was "just the most compelling story."


"Harriet Tubman is a story that is just [an] essential story of American democracy about how one person who grew up in slavery, [who] never had the benefit to learn to read or write, could change the course of history of this country because of her direct action—because of what she did to risk her life to free people on an individual basis, what she did to help her country by being a spy during the Civil War and what she did after that to help drive the debate on women's suffrage," Lew said. 

"That is a legacy of what an individual can do in a democracy, who we'd all do well to learn from, which is why it's so much the right image for our $20 bill," he added. 


Read more at Treasury.gov.

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