Harriet Tubman On The $20 Might Not Happen After All, & *Sigh*
President Donald Trump has seemingly made it his mission to undo as many Obama-era decisions as possible, and now there's another on the chopping block. It looks like the administration could be reneging on an earlier promise to change U.S. currency to celebrate women. Yep, that's right. The Trump administration might be cancelling plans to put Harriet Tubman on the $20.
Don't worry: The Treasury Department thinks Tubman was great, but they just can't quite promise she'll be debuting on the bill. At least, that's what they implied in a letter to Congress that was released June 6, according to The New York Times. They praised Tubman, an abolitionist and civil rights hero, for her "courage and persistence" but said they couldn't give any details about the planned redesign of the bill. Drew Maloney, the Treasury's assistant secretary for legislative affairs, wrote:
The redesign of the next currency series is still in the early stages, and neither the final designs nor all features have been finalized for the new notes. For this reason, the department is unable to provide additional information regarding the potential designs at this time.
Elite Daily reached out to the Treasury Department for further comment on the design plans and whether portraying Tubman would be a priority, but did not immediately hear back.
The letter was the response to a formal inquiry into the redesign's progress from Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire. Shaheen lambasted the Treasury Department's response to her inquiry, saying she was "severely disappointed." In a statement to The New York Times, she said:
I am severely disappointed by the Trump administration’s failure to prioritize the redesign of the $20 bill to honor Harriet Tubman, and other trailblazing women and civil rights leaders. Now that plan has been shelved without notice or reason.
She added that she would keep fighting to see Tubman honored. "I’ll continue to press the Treasury Department to expedite the redesign of the $20 bill and keep its promise to the American people," she said.
The Obama administration decided to add Tubman to U.S. currency after months of public debate. In April 2016, former Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced that the Treasury Department would be redesigning the bill to feature Tubman on the front, and President Andrew Jackson, who is currently on the front of the bill, would be moved to the back with the image of the White House. The New York Times called the decision "the most sweeping and historically symbolic makeover of American currency in a century," if that's any indicator of how big of a deal this was.
Part of the push to put Tubman, a former slave, on the $20 came from wanting to replace Jackson, a slave-owner who also promoted oppressive and genocidal policies against Native Americans. But Trump has expressed deep admiration for the seventh president on numerous occasions. "He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," Trump said of Jackson in May 2017. He then went on to claim that Jackson could have even prevented the Civil War, which is puzzling considering Jackson died 16 years before the war began. At any rate, it's clear that he likes the guy, which might make his administration a bit more hesitant to take Jackson off the $20.
Not long after Trump's Civil War comments, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested the administration might scrap the redesign. "People have been on the bills for a long period of time," he said in an interview on CNBC in August 2017. "This is something we’ll consider. Right now we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on."
Except, going back on the promise to put Tubman on the $20 would be going back on progress. Tubman is a critical part of American history, and representation matters. Representation leads to awareness and information, and it helps everyone to feel like they belong in this country. That's important, and taking a step back on this plan would be just that: taking a step back. It's 2018, and we're still arguing about whether or not to put a woman of color on our money? Seriously, guys.
Social media wasn't happy, and many people pointed out why it was such a big deal.
So what will happen with the $20 bill? Sadly, we'll probably have to wait a few more years and see. In the meantime, we still have Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park. With any luck, that one will stay around for awhile.