The XX Factor

Harriet Tubman Will Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, Leaving Hamilton on the $10

Abolitionist activist Harriet Tubman in the mid- to late-1800s.

H. B. Lindsley/Wikimedia Commons

Hamilton fans can stop their hyperventilation and money-hoarding: The Founding Father and recent Broadway celebrity will remain on the $10 for the foreseeable future.

According to Politico, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will reveal a plan on Wednesday to keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill and replace Andrew Jackson with Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, rather than giving a historically important woman a place on the $10, as the Treasury had previously planned.

Replacing Jackson on the $20 instead of Hamilton on the $10 wasn’t the good-willed genius of the Department of Treasury, nor was it the bright idea of unofficial Hamilton lobbyist Lin-Manuel Miranda. It was the original demand made by the women who launched the Women on 20s campaign in 2015. The campaign crowdsourced nominations for the female currency candidate and collected more than 600,000 votes over three rounds. Tubman won, beating out Eleanor Roosevelt by just 7,000 votes. Women on 20s presented the results and the proposal in a petition to President Obama last May.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

The Treasury, in turn, dismissed the campaign’s rationale for ousting Jackson and decided to place a woman on the $10, since that bill was next in line for a revamp, in 2020, due to anti-counterfeit requirements. Many were grateful that the department planned to take urgent action, since the $20 likely wouldn’t get a makeover for at least another 15 years or so. (The new time line for Tubman’s $20 hasn’t been released, but reports indicate that it could come sooner than that.) But that left Jackson, a symbol of our nation’s progress at the expense of the lives and livelihoods of indigenous and enslaved people, in a place of honor, while Hamilton—the first secretary of the Treasury, for Christ’s sake—got the boot.

Advertisement

Last week, word surfaced that the Treasury might make a woman share the $10 with Hamilton by relegating her to the back of the bill—an insulting proposition that would have been a perfect metaphor for the erasure of women from our nation’s historical narratives. At the time, I suggested that the Treasury have a woman replace Hamilton on the $10 to address the overwhelming maleness of our currency as quickly as possible, then promote Hamilton to the $20 when that bill came up for a redo, leaving Jackson’s mug to the history books.

Advertisement

It’s clear that Lew didn’t listen to my plan, but his proposal is better than the supposed alternative: offering the entire population of historically important American woman one measly helping of Hamilton’s sloppy seconds while the public continues to purchase goods with the face of a perpetrator of genocidePolitico reports that the Treasury will also soon edit the $5 bill to include depictions of civil rights leaders, but Jackson may stay on the $20 in some lesser role. As hard as it is to get representation for worthy women and people of color, it’s an even harder political sell to take it away from the white men who’ve held their places of honor for generations.

Advertisement