Harriet Tubman to Appear on $20 Bill, While ‘Hamilton’ Mania Keeps Him on $10

Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman in the late 1800s. Credit H. B. Lindsley/Library of Congress

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African-American who ferried thousands of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while the newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill.

Other depictions of women and civil rights leaders will also be part of new currency designs.

The redesigns, from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, would be announced in 2020 in time for the centennial of woman’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. None of the bills, including a new $5 note, would reach circulation until the next decade.

It was unclear whether details of the unexpectedly sweeping changes would mollify some women’s groups, who had excoriated Treasury SecretaryJacob J. Lew for reneging on his 10-month-old commitment to put a woman on the face of the $10 bill, which is the one currently in line for an anti-counterfeiting makeover.

But in the months of taking public comments on what woman he should pick, Mr. Lew evidently bowed to the Broadway-stoked mania around the $10 bill’s current star, Alexander Hamilton.

Photo

An uncut sheet of $10 bills at the National Archives. Images of women are expected to grace the back of the new bill, with Harriet Tubman taking the top spot on a redesigned $20 in the future. CreditAlex Wong/Getty Images

Instead, images of women are expected to grace the back of the new bill, with Tubman taking the top spot on a redesigned $20 further into the future.

When Mr. Lew announced in June that a woman was likely to front the $10, he thought it would be a feel-good moment for the Obama administration. That was before the rap musical “Hamilton” created legions of fans for the Founder who was already on the bill, not only among well-to-do patrons shelling out big bucks for tickets on Broadway but also among tens of thousands of teenagers memorizing the lyrics and obsessing over details of the first Treasury secretary’s scrappy life story.

It did not help matters when “Hamilton” and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this week. Mr. Miranda personally pressed Mr. Lew to keep Hamilton front and center, rallying Hamiltonians around the country.

But in advance of the announcement, a number of women took to media to say a win for the hottest Founding Father would be a loss for many women who pressed for someone of their sex on the bill.

“It’s yet another ‘wait your turn’ moment for American women,” political commentator Cokie Roberts wrote Wednesday in The New York Times.

Other women were not giving up hope, given the number of bills facing a revamp.

“It may seem like we have more important things to worry about, but all of us will be watching to see if they find other opportunities,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.

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