Abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman was set to make history again in 2020 as the first woman highlighted prominently on U.S. paper currency. But the Trump Administration’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Tubman’s image on the front of a new $20 bill won’t be happening anytime soon, maybe in about seven or more years when Trump will no longer be in office.
Why are we surprised?
Trump, his administration and members of the GOP have publicly insulted prominent Black women. From Trump continually saying that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is a “low IQ person” to former White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly lying about comments by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) then refusing to apologize to Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton referring to former National Security Advisor Susan Rice as “the Typhoid Mary of the Obama Administration,” it has been commonplace.
And let’s not forget Trump’s vitriol-filled comments toward Black journalists Abby Phillip, April Ryan and Yamiche Alcindor last November.
For the Trump administration, honoring Harriet Tubman — a Black woman who risked her life to help free enslaved Black men, women and children — by putting her image on the $20 bill, is not as important as keeping former President Andrew Jackson on the bill.
During his presidency, Jackson played a large role in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which forced Native Americans out of their homes to allow European settlers to move in. The journey resulted in the deaths of countless Native Americans.
But according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a plan put in place by the Obama administration to honor Tubman by 2020 is stalled because he’s “focusing on the security features of the US currency,” rather than the design.
‘Do you believe people other than white men have really contributed to this country and history?’
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), the first Black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, questioned Mnuchin during a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.
“I do believe our diversity is our greatest strength and arguably the greatest contributor to our economy,” Pressley began.
“Mr. Secretary, do you believe that representation matters in American politics and imagery?”
Mnuchin said yes.
“I’m so glad we agree,” Pressley said. “A few years ago, Secretary Lew put out a call to the American people soliciting feedback on ways to modernize our nation’s currency. In April 2016, following longtime organizing efforts from several grassroots organizations, he announced a currency redesign overhaul that would more accurately reflect the diversity of our society.”
She then asked, “Secretary, yes or no, do you believe people other than white men have really contributed to this country and history?”
Mnuchin said yes.
Pressley then said that former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced Harriet Tubman would be featured on the front of the new $20 bill.
“As it stands currently, our currency does not reflect the diversity of individuals that have contributed to our great American history,” she said.
Pressley continued to describe the steps Lew took to make the $20 bill featuring Tubman a reality in 2020 for the “100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote.”
“Will the 2020 redesign meet the deadline, yes or no?” she asked.
“The primary reason we have looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said. “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.”
Pressley asked for clarification:
“Yes or no, will you meet what was the original 2020 design deadline?”
Mnuchin said they will meet the “security feature deadline in 2020.”
He then said the imagery aspect will not be an issue that comes up until most likely 2026.
“Do you support Harriet Tubman being on the $20 bill?” Pressley asked.
“I made no decision as it relates to that,” he said.
“Right now, I am focused on the security features of the US currency.”
In regard to Tubman’s image on the $20 bill, he said: “It’s not a decision that is likely to come until way past my term, even if I serve the second term for the president, so I am not focused on that at the moment.”
Pressley answered: “The occupant of the White House, Donald Trump, said the move to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill was ‘pure political correctness.’
“And he, in fact, suggested putting her on a $2 bill.“
View the exchange between Pressley and Mnuchin:
.@RepPressley: “Do you support Harriet Tubman being on the $20 bill?”
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 22, 2019