It looks as though a likeness of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman finally will appear on American currency, resurrecting a plan that has been stalled for nearly five years.
It's the right move by the Biden administration, one that allows the diversity of the nation to be reflected in an everyday commodity such as paper money. Tubman would be the first Black person to be featured on U.S. currency, and one of only a handful of women whose likeness appeared on U.S. currency or coins.
Tubman's portrait will be placed on the $20 bill, a plan first announced in 2016 during the Obama administration. The goal was to have the new bill unveiled in 2020 as part of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.
The Tubman $20 bill design came to a halt, however, under President Donald Trump. He opposed the idea while campaigning in 2016, calling it a move of "pure political correctness" and alluding to his fondness for Andrew Jackson, who is now on the $20 bill.
Former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last year that the new bills could not be put into circulation until 2028 at the earliest, citing nonspecific technical issues. He didn't say why the rollout would take nearly eight years compared with the Obama plan of about four years, but did say the decision would rest with the next treasury secretary.
President Joe Biden wasted little time in making it clear that the Tubman $20 bill would move forward, and that his Treasury Department would be studying ways to speed up the process, although no timetable was announced.
Born around 1820, Tubman escaped slavery and became a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, where she helped other slaves escape captivity before the Civil War. When her $20 bill is placed in circulation, she would join Martha Washington and Pocahontas as the only women to appear on bills; images of Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea and Helen Keller appeared on coins.
Having a Black woman's image on U.S. currency is a long overdue acknowledgment of the diversity of the nation and the role of Black people and women in shaping our history. The Treasury Department is taking the right approach in fast-tracking the design and release of a new $20 bill that honors the work and life of Harriet Tubman.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE