Iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman will be the first woman in decades to grace the front of a US banknote. The one-time slave will replace former US President, and slaveholder, Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill.
US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that one-time slave turned abolitionist Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States and a noted slave owner, as the new face of the $20 bill.
This decision means that Tubman will be the first woman on US paper currency for a century. She's one of the most iconic so-called conductors on the Underground Railroad - a network of abolitionists, which helped lead thousands of southern slaves to freedom in the north.
The announcement was met with widespread cheer, including from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who herself could make history later this year if she is elected first female President of the United States.
It also marked a victory for supporters of Alexander Hamilton, whose portrait on the $10 note was initially targeted for replacement by a woman, as that bill is first in line for a makeover. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was just one of many who had rushed to the defense of Hamilton, the architect of the US financial system and the nation's first Treasury Secretary. This, argued Bernanke, made Hamilton much more deserving of a portrait than former President Jackson, whose complicated legacy also included a hatred for paper money.
Seventh President Andrew Jackson has been praised for his rejection of elitism in Washington, but disparaged for his policy of forcibly removing Native American tribes from their lands
Women on 20s
The push to replace Jackson was bolstered by the grassroots group "Women On 20s," which launched a powerful campaign complete the revamp of the $20 note in time for 2020, the 100th anniversary of American women receiving the right to vote.
"The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old," Lew said.
"I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy," he added.
Tubman is thought to have be born around 1822 in Dorchester County, Maryland. Born into slavery on a large plantation, she eventually escaped using the Underground Railroad system of safe houses and abolitionist helpers in 1849. From then on, she worked to assist other fugitive slaves escape north using the same system over an eleven year period. She is known to have rescued at least 70 people during approximately 13 trips to Maryland.
During the US Civil War, she assisted the Union Army by leading a number of scouting missions and the Combahee River Raid on a collection of plantations, an act that saw 750 slaves freed in South Carolina.
Alongside Tubman's ascension, Lew is expected to make announcements about changes to the five and ten dollar bills as well. It has been rumored that while Hamilton will remain on the ten, the depiction of the Treasury Building on the back will be replaced with a collage of images related to the women's suffrage movement. 2020, the year the new currency will be released, marks 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the US.