Harriet Tubman Might Not Appear on the $20 Bill After All, Suggests Trump’s Treasury Secretary

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Photo by H. B. Lindsley, via Library of Congress/Wikimedia Commons.

Maryland’s most famed abolitionist might not be replacing Andrew Jackson on U.S. currency after all, according to one of Donald Trump’s Cabinet members.

Asked yesterday about whether the Obama-era plan to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill is still happening, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC, “Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.”

President Obama’s treasury secretary, Jack Lew, last year moved to replace Jackson, a slave owner president who forced tens of thousands of Native Americans to relocate — killing several thousand in the process — with Tubman, who helped free hundreds of slaves before and during the Civil War.

When Trump was campaigning, many wondered if he would follow through on the plan. He described it as “pure political correctness,” telling NBC’s Today Show, “I would love to leave Andrew Jackson and see if we can maybe come up with another denomination. Maybe we do the $2 bill or we do another bill.”

Upon becoming president, Trump put a portrait of Jackson in the Oval Office.

Mnuchin told CNBC he’s most concerned with stopping counterfeiting, and downplayed the importance of the proposed Tubman-Jackson switcheroo: “Right now, we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”

Tubman was born a slave in Dorchester County and led many of her friends and family to freedom by crossing through Maryland. She remains a hero today to civil rights activists and others in Baltimore and across the state. Local leaders were thrilled to hear of the Obama administration’s plan to put her on U.S. currency last year. Many have called for putting a statue of her in place of one of the city’s recently removed Confederate monuments.

U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, who’ve moved to include a statue of Tubman in the U.S. Capitol, have objected to Mnuchin’s backtracking. Van Hollen wrote on Facebook yesterday that he and his senior Senate counterpart sent the treasury secretary a letter urging him to proceed with Lew’s plan.

“Tubman is fully deserving of this honor, but today Secretary Mnuchin refused to commit to moving this important project forward,” Van Hollen wrote. “This is shameful.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
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