Harriet Tubman Replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill? Why It May Not Happen Anytime Soon, If At All

Harriet Tubman Replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill? Why It May Not Happen Anytime Soon, If At All

Perhaps you’ve heard the news that a recent private poll declared slavery abolitionist Harriet Tubman as the favorite choice among a selection of historic women to replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. The candidates, which included Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Martha Washington, and Eleanor Roosevelt, were presented by a group called Women on 20s, which has been trumpeting efforts to place a female face on the otherwise male-dominated U.S. paper currency.

The group specifically singled out Andrew Jackson, as he led the removal of thousands of Native Americans from their land east of the Mississippi River under the Indian Removal Policy in the late 1830s. Many died during their relocation to Oklahoma, which is one reason why the effects of the Indian Removal Policy has been called “The Trail of Tears.”

While the results of the $20 bill poll indicate a plurality of the voters favor Harriet Tubman, the vote in no way legally binds the U.S. government to actually replace Andrew Jackson’s portrait on the $20 bill with that of Tubman. Even if Women on 20s officially submits the proposal to the government (and by every indication they are gaining enough signatures on their petition to send it to the White House for consideration) there are still several hurdles that stand before Women on 20s.

One, and perhaps the most important, hurdle is that U.S. Treasury officials have been reluctant to making currency changes in the past. Federal Reserve notes have largely looked the same since 1929, when the modern-day portraits were added to circulating U.S. currency. Even when color was added to the $50 bill and new security measures were made to other denominations, officials touted how each bill still largely retained their original look, size, and feel.

What’s more, the $10 bill is the next denomination expected to see new security measures, not the $20, meaning the U.S. Treasury is more concerned with the design upgrades coming to that currency issue. Even then, all changes must be approved by officials in three different agencies: the Secret Service, the Federal Reserve, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. 

With each agency involved and all matters concerning design change considered, it would likely take several years – and a lot of legal finagling – to oust Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill. With the government aiming for security-related design upgrades on the $10 by 2020 – the year Women on 20s hopes to see Harriet Tubman debut on the $20 bill – it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing any changes coming soon to the double sawbuck. 



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