The Trump administration effectively dropped all previous plans to make abolitionist Harriet Tubman the new face of the $20 bill. As Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin claimed Wednesday, counterfeiting concerns are what halted the process, but many are wondering why the administration isn’t prioritizing featuring a black woman on U.S. currency for the first time.
“Mr. Secretary, do you believe that representation matters in American politics and imagery?” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) asked Mnuchin at a House hearing Wednesday. “Mr. Secretary, do you believe people other than white men have greatly contributed to this country and its history?”
Mnuchin answered “yes” to both questions, but said that “the primary reason we’ve looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues.” Mnuchin estimated the new design wouldn’t be ready until 2028.
The decision to put Tubman on the bill happened in the Obama administration and the Treasury Department announced at the time the new bill would be unveiled in 2020, marking the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment.
Pressley didn’t buy Mnuchin’s explanation of why the bill needed to be pushed back an additional eight years:
“I’m just wondering if you could explain that to me because after an exhaustive community process where people who organized for quite some time and you said you do share my sentiments and opinion that our currency should be more reflective of the contributions and the diversity of those contributions — so why the delay?”
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Pressley openly doubted Mnuchin’s commitment to diversity in American imagery and she wasn’t alone. Many pointed out that while the administration dropped efforts to uplift Tubman, President Donald Trump defended Confederate statues, praised Confederate general Robert E. Lee, and honored former President Andrew Jackson.
The white supremacists running this country are not about to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill to have y'all contemplating racism and resistance every time y'all go to the ATM. Y'all gonna get that good ol' agent of genocide Andrew Jackson
— Bree Newsome Bass (@BreeNewsome) May 22, 2019
They're out here trying to erase Harriet Tubman but fighting for Robert E Lee statues. We see you.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) May 22, 2019
Trump is working overtime to keep Harriet Tubman off money but aggressively defending confederate statues.
This man is a white supremacist, and the media needs to stop equivocating on his racism.
— Charlotte Clymer🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) May 23, 2019
Jackson currently has a spot on the $20 bill but he was targeted for replacement due to his status as a slave owner and his role in supporting the Native American removal program, known as the Trail of Tears, that lead to the deaths of thousands of Native American people.
Trump is an open admirer of Jackson. During his 2016 campaign, Trump said Jackson had “a great history” and replacing him with Tubman would be “pure political correctness.” According to CNN, at the time, Trump suggested that Tubman be put on the $2 bill — a note that is no longer printed.