Written By: Alicia Gallagher
Disclaimer: This article is a factual and (slightly) opinionated piece.
Harriet Tubman, an inspiring figure in American history, was born into slavery, escaped and helped many others gain freedom as well. She was an abolitionist, a conductor of the Underground Railroad, and a spy for the Union Army. She is a worthy candidate for being the first in 100 years to be on the front face of an American bill, especially one so heavily circulated as the $20 bill.
Andrew Jackson, the symbol of the “common man”, an American president who borderline committed genocide and owned many human beings on a plantation. Jackson advocated for and signed the Indian Removal Act, causing the Trail of Tears and killing thousands of Native Americans. Maybe Jackson was the epitome of the common man in the 1800s, but he certainly isn’t anymore. He simply is an old and awful representation of a country built on progression, immigration, and freedom.
While I am overjoyed with the new changes coming to American currency, there are a few things of importance to note. One, Harriet Tubman is only going to be featured on the front of the $20 bill; Jackson will remain on the back. Two, other influential female leaders are only going to be portrayed on the back side of the $10 bill (the ten being the most uncommonly circulated bill out there). Three, President Lincoln will remain on the front of the $5 bill, but the back with now honor historical events that took place at the Lincoln Memorial, including civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marian Anderson.
The idea of changing the nearly 100 year-long design was brought to the public last year. Hamilton, who’s portrait, is shown on the $10 bill was going to be removed for a woman in American history’s portrait. Then something funny happened. A man named Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a modern hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton. Not only did this production change the way the American public looked at this founding father and first Secretary of the US Treasury, but it also regained a universal love for American history. Miranda and the musical company performed the show at the White House on March 14th of this year, convincing Jack Lew, the current Treasury Secretary, and the US Treasury, as a whole, to change their minds. The announcement was made last month that the $10 bill will keep Alexander Hamilton on the front and put a mural of sorts on the backside with influential female figures of the women’s suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Lew, who decided on the changes, states that they will release the new $10 bill in 2020, to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. This does not mean all newly designed bills will be printed and circulated by this time. The new circulating $20 bill will not be in our hands until 2030. This is due to security and protection regulations against counterfeiting. The new $100 bill took 15 years to develop its security band.
However, this brings up a few important questions. Is it even worth it to be on the backside of a dollar bill when it is so frequently overlooked or disregarded? Or more significantly, is paper money even going to be used by this time, especially now with technologies likes debit/credit cards and apple/android pay?