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Biden Administration Will 'Speed Up' Efforts To Put Harriet Tubman On $20 Bill

Supporters rally outside the U.S. Treasury Department in 2019 to demand that American abolitionist Harriet Tubman's image be put on the $20 bill.
Chip Somodevilla
Getty Images
Supporters rally outside the U.S. Treasury Department in 2019 to demand that American abolitionist Harriet Tubman's image be put on the $20 bill.

The Biden administration will resume efforts to redesign the $20 bill to feature abolitionist Harriet Tubman, the White House said Monday.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said it's important that "our money ... reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman's image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that. So we're exploring ways to speed up that effort."

In April 2016, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Tubman's portrait would be on a redesigned $20 note, to be unveiled in 2020. The image of President Andrew Jackson, a slaveholder, would be moved to the bill's reverse side.

But that Obama-era initiative made little progress under the Trump administration. In May 2019, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the redesigned currency would not come out until 2028 – well after the end of the Trump administration.

Before his election, Donald Trump, a fan of Andrew Jackson, disparagedthe change in the currency as "pure political correctness" and suggested Tubman be put on the $2 bill instead.

In June 2019, the Treasury said it would conduct an investigation into the circumstances leading to a delay in the production of a new $20 note.

Tubman escaped slavery and helped lead more than 300 others to freedom.

In an April 2016 interview with NPR, Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, described the significance of putting a legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad on the country's currency.

"For me, having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill really says, first of all, that America realizes that it's not the same country that it once was — that it's a place where diversity matters," Bunch told All Things Considered. "And it allows us to make a hero out of someone like Harriet Tubman, who deserves to be a hero."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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