It was definitely a long time coming when former Secretary of the Treasury, Jacob J. Lew, unveiled plans to place Harriet Tubman on the face of the $20-dollar-bill in 2016. The announcement was well received with many pointing to the critical role she played as an abolitionist, civil rights activist and a member of the Underground Railroad.
“The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old,” Lew said when he announced the decision in 2016.
“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,” he added.
The $20 bill featuring Tubman was expected to be released in 2020 to perfectly coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. However, the Trump administration has moved to postpone the unveiling to 2028.
The announcement was made by treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin on Wednesday when he appeared before the House Financial Services Committee.
“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” he said when Rep. Ayanna Pressley questioned him about it, according to CNBC.
“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,” he added.
Prior to Trump’s election, he welcomed the decision to put Tubman on the $20 bill claiming it was “pure political correctness”. He, however, proposed Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead.
After the hearing, Rep. Ayanna Pressley took to Twitter to register her displeasure with the postponement.
“People other than white men built this county. And Sec Mnuchin agrees, yet he refuses to update our #currency,” she wrote.
Tubman became famous for escaping slavery as a young woman and then sneaking back onto slave plantations many times as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading other brave and desperate people through the woods, swamps and safe houses until they crossed into states where slavery was not permitted. Eventually, they had to trek all the way to Canada to be truly free of the slave catchers.
Although Tubman is known as an Underground Railroad icon, she also worked on a major Union military operation. In 1863, she became the first black woman to lead a military expedition at the Combahee River, now known as the Combahee River Raid.