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Biden administration plans to 'speed up' effort to put Harriet Tubman on $20 bill

Harriet Tubman
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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday it plans to revitalize the effort to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.

“It’s important that our notes — our money — reflect the history and diversity of our country, and Harriet Tubman’s image gracing the new $20 note would certainly reflect that,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a White House press briefing Monday. “So we’re exploring ways to speed up that effort.”

Psaki noted the U.S. Treasury Department — led in the Biden administration by a woman, Janet Yellen, for the first time in history — has already picked back up the effort to put Tubman — an African American woman celebrated for her work freeing enslaved people during the Civil War — on new $20 bills, an effort that was delayed under former President Donald Trump.

“The Treasury Department is taking steps to resume efforts to put Harriet Tubman on front of the new $20 notes,” Psaki told reporters, noting that specifics on timing will come from the Treasury Department.

Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, also announced Monday that she is reintroducing in Congress the Woman on the Twenty Act of 2021, which would require any $20 bill printed after 2024 to “prominently feature” a portrait of Tubman.

“For several years, I worked directly with the Department of Treasury to plan the release of the new $20 design featuring Harriet Tubman to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment,” Beatty said in a statement. “The American people want our currency to better reflect the diversity of our great country.”

“I look forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration, including the first-ever female secretary of treasury, Janet Yellen, to put a woman on the twenty and make the Tubman twenty a reality,” she said.

In 2016, President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced plans for Tubman to replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, as part of an effort to get more women on U.S. currency.

The redesign was set to go into effect in 2020.

While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Trump described the effort to put an image of Tubman on the $20 bill as “pure political correctness.”

Trump’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, told lawmakers in 2019 that he wasn’t planning on putting Tubman on the $20 bill in 2020 and that a redesign of the currency would not be issued until 2028.

“The ultimate decision on a redesign will most likely be another secretary later down the road,” Mnuchin said in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee in 2019.

Just a few days after that hearing, House Democrats protested on the steps of the Treasury Department, rallying for a congressional measure that would require $20 bills to include an image of Tubman.

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