A New Face for the $20 Bill

Controversy sparks as the Biden administration accelerates the proposal to feature Harriet Tubman bill.


Michael A. McCoy—The New York Times

A congressional staffer departs holding a visual representation of what the redesigned $20 bill honoring Harriet Tubman would look like.

Evelyn Wiethorn, Staff Writer

Shortly after his inauguration, president Biden voiced an ambitious number of proposals he plans to achieve during his presidency. While many of those initiatives are focused on the pandemic, the president has also laid out plans to slow the effects of climate change as well as speed up projects proposed during Trump’s presidency. 

One proposal was the addition of Harriet Tubman to the $20 bill. The anti-slavery activist aided in the freeing of hundreds of slaves during her life. Her efforts working in South Carolina as a Union spy helped the North win crucial battles during the Civil War. 

The idea to replace Andrew Jackson was first mentioned at the beginning of Trump’s presidency in 2016. Jackson, the 7th president of the United States, was known for being racist, owning hundreds of slaves as well as using violent measures to remove Native Americans from their lands.

The new proposal still allows Jackson’s statue to remain on the back of the bill, while the front is replaced with a portrait of Harriet Tubman.

Students and staff at NASH have shared their own opinions on the redesign.

“I think that Harriet Tubman should be put onto the $20 bill because she is an important figure in America’s history,” said junior Ana Donaldson. “I additionally think Andrew Jackson should be removed either way because of his racist actions.” 

In 2016 President Trump opposed the proposal and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin brought the redesign proposal to a halt, saying that further security measures for US currency should be of a higher priority. He stated that a future Treasury secretary should be able to make the decision on whether or not to replace Andrew Jackson. 

Mnuchin also stated that the new design wouldn’t be able to be released until at least 2028. Biden’s Treasury Secretary, Janet L. Yellen, plans to speed up the process. 

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the Biden administration and has shared details on the proposal.

“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the new $20 notes,” Ms. Psaki said. “It’s important that our money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”

Like most changes to the everyday lives of people in the US, the decision has become quite controversial and political. Some view Tubman’s face on the bill as a form of disrespect. They see the bill being traded for goods showing similarities to an enslaved person being handed over for payment. Others believe that representation of such an influential person in Black history is needed to showcase America’s history and diversity. 

NASH’s history teacher Michael Lyons also shared his view.

“It is unfortunate that this has become a political tug-of-war but it has encouraged a national discussion about our history which is a positive,” Lyons said. 

The redesign is sure to stir up the media regarding the legacies of both Harriet Tubman as well as Andrew Jackson. As the Biden administration pushes to approve the redesign of the $20 bill, no doubt the controversy will continue.