U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced changes to the $20, $10 and $5 bills Wednesday, confirming that abolitionist leader Harriet Tubman will replace president Andrew Jackson on the face of the $20 dollar bill.
The list of changes adds new figures and images to bills rather than completely replacing the political leaders currently featured. Jackson will still be on the reverse side of the $20 note in some way. Founding father Alexander Hamilton’s place on the face of the $10 dollar bill will remain unchanged and while the back of the bill will continue to depict the Treasury building, it will also show images of the women's suffrage movement.
Lincoln will remain on the face of the $5 dollar, however, the back will include historical events at the Lincoln Memorial, including African American singer Marian Anderson singing on the steps next to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and an image of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I have a dream" speech.
The Treasury will reveal the redesigned bills put into production by 2020, to mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment which legalized voting for women.
Lew emphasized that these redesigns are focused on telling stories of historical events through images depicted on the bills. Harriet Tubman's legacy is "an essential story about the history of American democracy," he told reporters on a press call.
“She changed the course of this country by direct action," Lew said. "That is a legacy that we all do well to learn from, which is why she is the right image for our next $20 dollar bill.”
Tubman was one of the many women considered. Other candidates included Susan B. Anthony, Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks. The Treasury department hosted public town halls, round table meetings and calls for public input on social media.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen echoed Lew's sentiment in a statement released on Wednesday. "Throughout American history, women have made important contributions to the free and democratic society we enjoy today," said Yellen. "I welcome the decision by the Treasury Department to honor these achievements."
In an interview with Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal earlier this month, Lew talked about the movement to depict more women on the dollar bills.
“We've heard from millions of Americans. That means there's people from around the country at school lunch tables, in senior centers, at workplaces talking about what woman should we recognize and how have women contributed to democracy in America,” said Lew.
This comes almost a year after the Treasury Secretary sent a memo to the president suggesting changes to the currency.
In his memo, Lew initially proposed getting rid of Hamilton, which did not sit well with the public. After the wild success of “Hamilton,” the hip-hop musical about the first Treasury secretary, fans rallied around the idea of keeping him on the $10.
During a visit to the White House, Pulitzer prize winner and creator of “Hamilton,” Lin Manuel-Miranda lobbied current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to keep Hamilton on the bill. Turns out, the non-stop support for Hamilton from “Hamilton” worked.
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