Harriet Tubman to be first African-American on U.S. currency

Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:37pm EDT
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By Megan Cassella

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Anti-slavery crusader Harriet Tubman will become the first African-American on the face of U.S. paper currency, and the first woman in more than a century, when she replaces former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Wednesday that Tubman, who was born into slavery in the early 1820s and went on to help hundreds of slaves escape, would take the center spot on the bill, while Jackson, a slave owner, would move to the back.

Introduced alongside a slew of changes to the $5 and $10 notes as well, the redesign gives the Treasury "a chance to open the aperture to reflect more of America's history," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said.

A new $10 bill will add images of five female leaders of the women's suffrage movement, including Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to the back, while keeping founding father Alexander Hamilton on the front.

The reverse of a new $5 note will show former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., officials said. Former President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front.

Lew said the designs should be unveiled by 2020 and go into circulation "as quickly as possible," although he declined to say when. He said the $10 bill was scheduled to go out first, citing security needs.

The long-awaited decision to replace the seventh president of the United States with Tubman followed months of outreach by the Treasury regarding which woman should be featured on a bill.

The debate began when the Treasury announced plans in June to feature a woman on the $10 note, prompted partly by a young girl's letter to President Barack Obama that criticized the lack of women on U.S. currency and a social media campaign last year called "Women on 20s."   Continued...

Harriet Tubman in a photo dated between 1860 -1875.    REUTERS/Courtesy Library of Congress