Trump Administration Won’t Commit To Putting Harriet Tubman On $20 Bill

Image courtesy of National Museum of African American History and Culture

Anyone expecting to someday see Harriet Tubman’s image grace the front of the $20 bill may be in for a long wait. In a new interview, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin hinted that the Trump administration may back off the planned change that would have had Tubman take Andrew Jackson’s place on the bill.

Speaking to CNBC today, Mnuchin would only say that the Treasury will “consider” whether or not to move forward with the change from Jackson to Tubman.

The $20 bill is up for a scheduled redesign in 2020, regardless of whose face is on the front. However, the former Goldman Sachs vice president turned movie producer said today that the main reason for making a change to currency is to make it more difficult to counterfeit, “So the issues of what we change will be primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes. I’ve received classified briefings on that. And that’s what I’m focused on for the most part.”

On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump called abolitionist and suffragist Tubman “fantastic” but said he preferred to keep the seventh U.S. president on the $20 bill. At the time, Trump suggested putting Tubman on new currency, despite the fact that Americans are using cash less frequently and there is no apparent need for a new denomination.

Mnuchin seemed to echo Trump’s support for Jackson’s continued presence on the bill, telling CNBC “People have been on the bills for a long period of time… Right now, we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”

The Treasury had originally planned on updating the $10 bill with a famous female figure from history, since that denomination was scheduled for an earlier re-design. Then came the Broadway musical Hamilton, which renewed the public’s interest in the country’s first Treasury Secretary, resulting in the decision to change the $20 bill instead.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is still years away from its slated redesign of the $20 bill so it remains to be seen whether Mnuchin’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the change is a sign that Tubman will not replace Jackson, or if it’s just a matter of the redesign not being on his agenda at this point.

It’s been more than a century since any female figures have been printed on U.S. currency. In the 19th century, both Martha Washington and Pocahontas featured on bills issued by the Treasury. Since then, women have only appeared on coins in the U.S., and only in limited runs like the Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea dollar coins.

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