US President Joe Biden’s Treasury Department is studying ways to speed up the process of adding anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman’s portrait to the front of the $20 bill after the Trump administration allowed the Obama-era initiative to lapse.
The decision to have Ms. Tubman replace Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 note was set in motion in 2016 by the Treasury secretary at the time, Jacob Lew.
President Donald Trump opposed the idea, and his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, stopped work on that part of the currency redesign, arguing that adding new security features to the money was a more urgent priority.
Mnuchin said that notes with new imagery could not be put into circulation until 2028 and that a future Treasury secretary would make the call whether to replace Jackson.
The Treasury Department, which Biden has nominated Janet L. Yellen to lead, plans to accelerate that timeline.
The move would make Ms Tubman the first African American to appear on a US banknote, and the first woman for more than 100 years.
“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said. “It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”
Trump professed to be a fan of Andrew Jackson, a fellow populist, and was a fierce opponent of altering historical images and statues.
Mnuchin’s decision to slow-walk the change drew backlash from some Democrats in Congress and triggered a probe from the Treasury inspector general about whether the process faced improper political interference. The inquiry found no wrongdoing by Mnuchin.
Under Lew’s plan, the new design was supposed to be unveiled in 2020 on the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue more than 70 enslaved people, including family and friends.
Later, she became a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War, a prominent supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and a famous veteran of the struggle for the abolition of slavery.