As reported by Politico and later confirmed by a Treasury Department representative, the Treasury Department will announce significant changes to America’s paper money later today, including the news that Andrew Jackson will be replaced on the $20 bill by abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Alexander Hamilton will reportedly retain his current spot on the $10 bill, with prominent American women taking up the back of the note. The $5 bill will also receive changes.
After nearly a century of venerating genocidal slave owner Andrew Jackson (Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland on the $20 bill in 1928), I’m glad to see the Treasury Department is beginning to give Harriet Tubman anything approaching the amount of recognition she deserves. Unfortunately, Politico notes that Jackson is likely to remain on the back of the bill rather than being removed entirely, which, given that he was a slave owner and white supremacist, seems like an insult to Tubman’s legacy—hopefully the Treasury’s official announcement later today will reveal otherwise.
The decision to keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note will also undoubtedly be controversial. In June of last year, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew had announced plans to feature a woman on the $10 bill, although Treasury officials said at the time that the new design wouldn’t oust Hamilton entirely—they planned to either continue producing tens featuring Hamilton in addition to tens with a woman on the front, or to put a woman on the same bill as Hamilton.
The astounding critical and commercial success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Hamilton increased public interest in the Treasury’s plans for the bill, and while visiting Washington D.C. earlier this year, Miranda hinted to fans that he and Secretary Lew had talked about the possibility of a compromise that would involve keeping Hamilton on the $10 bill and replacing Jackson on the $20 instead. The Treasury was concerned with continuing to represent Hamilton before Hamilton even opened in previews, but the recent public fascination with the Founding Father still likely influenced their final decision.
News of the Treasury’s impending announcement has met with mixed reactions. Political commentator Cokie Roberts described the $10 bill decision in The Times as “yet another ‘wait your turn’ moment for American women.” But Kari Winter, director of the gender institute at the University at Buffalo, told Politico that Hamilton “is fully appropriate to be on American currency, whereas Jackson was a scoundrel, a slave holder and a white supremacist who was involved in the removal of Indians and was completely opposed to paper money and was horrible to women.”
What do you think of these changes? And who would you like to see join Hamilton on the $10 bill?
UPDATE: Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew revealed in a Medium post that Jackson will be moving to the reverse of the $20 bill. You can read more about his statement on Tubman’s addition, as well as the plans for the $5 and $10 bills, here.
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