The voices of equality on America’s evolving dollar

Jackson Pierce, Contributing Writer

According to a statement from the Treasury Department, the $20 bill will no longer carry the face of President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner who championed a policy that forcibly displaced thousands of Native Americans from their homes.  4,000 Cherokee natives are believed to have died on the infamous “Trail of Tears” after President Jackson defied the Supreme Court to enforce his Indian Removal Act.  President Jackson has been portrayed on the bill since 1928.

The Treasury Department has confirmed he will be replaced by abolitionist Harriet Tubman.  Tubman worked not only as a nurse and a cook, but also as a spy for the Union during the Civil War. She was instrumental in orchestrating the Underground Railroad, a series of safe houses that led escaped slaves to freedom.

In his statement, Secretary Jacob Lew recognized that Tubman was “a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy” who legitimately changed our nation.  The Treasury Department also announced that the back of the $10 bill will be reprinted to display pioneering activists Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.  Each of these women made history as leaders in the Women’s Suffrage movement.  The back of the $5 note, once depicting the Lincoln Memorial, will be replaced with with the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, opera singer Marian Anderson, and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

Some activists argue that the Treasury should push such equality even further and include women on the front of more bills, rather than the back. Others feel that Tubman’s presence on the bill could be considered insensitive and ironic given that Tubman was once bought and sold as a slave because in this way she was a victim of the capitalist system that now prints her face on its currency.

The group Women on 20s petitioned last year for Tubman to replace Jackson on the $20 bill and a petition was drafted and sent to President Obama. No plans were announced to replace the white males on the other four denominations.

In a formal statement given at the National Archives, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced that the department intends to release these currency redesigns in 2020, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.  Last June, after the department announced that the $10 note would be modified to feature a woman, the Treasury received thousands of suggestions from the public about changing other denominations as well.  Given the enormous complexities of the distribution of dollars, it’ll be a few extra years before the bills completely enter circulation. Regardless, the change is exciting for those frustrated with “Old Hickory” Jackson’s presence on the twenty.

Alexander Hamilton, father of the U.S. economy and subject of the beloved hip-hopera, will keep his title as the ten-dollar bill front man, as will Abraham Lincoln of the five.

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