Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew announced that numerous changes will affect U.S. paper currency over the next few years. One of those changes is the redesign of the $20 bill.
Andrew Jackson’s portrait will be moved to the back of the bill, and Harriet Tubman will be featured on the front. Tubman is the first African American to be placed on U.S. currency, and the first woman to be on a bill in over 100 years.
Tubman is known for her role in the freeing of hundreds of slaves as a conductor of the Underground Railroad in the 1800s. She escaped slavery herself and returned south to help others. She also served as a spy for the U.S. government during the Civil War.
“I think it’s very positive,” said Plattsburgh State Associate History Professor Connie Shemo. “I like that Andrew Jackson is staying on the bill, as well.”
She said the change in currency will implore people to take a “fresh look” at Andrew Jackson and his historical significance.
Jackson served as the seventh president of the U.S. but was also a slave owner and a merchant. He was also responsible for the “Trail of Tears,” signing the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
”I think it’s important that we remember slavery and our history. I think it’s important we remember racial injustice and I think it’s good for our heroes that we chose who (those who) tried to fight injustice,” Shemo said. “I think that’s very powerful.”
Shemo said the changes can be used to start a new conversation.
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“What Harriet Tubman symbolizes is the issue of slavery. It’s really bringing the issue of slavery to the forefront,” Shemo said. “She is an incredible person, right?”
Chief Diversity Officer J.W. Wiley said he is “very excited” about the statement placing Tubman on the $20 bill makes.
“It feels like a double victory in a competition I didn’t know I was in,” Wiley said as an African-American and father of two daughters.
Wiley said having white men featured on all currency “subliminally makes a statement” that these are the only people who have made great contributions in history.
He said that adding a new face to the currency has been long overdue, but the change could open doors to inclusion of other groups of people as well.
Some PSUC students are in disagreement with the bill change.
“It’s stupid that something that has been around for so long is being changed,” PSUC junior audio-radio production major Timothy Everhardt said. “If they want her to be on a bill, make a new denomination.”
Environmental studies junior Mike Scappaticci said changing the bill is just “asking for controversy,” although he personally doesn’t mind the change.
“If someone gave me a bunch of $20s that are legal currency, I don’t care who’s on it,” Scappaticci said.
Changes will also occur on the $5 and $10 bills, with the addition of prominent female historical figures and civil rights leaders.
The U.S. Treasury building on the back of the $10 bill will be replaced by a picture of a 1913 march in support of women’s suffrage along with portraits of five suffrage leaders: Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul and Susan B. Anthony, according to an article published by The New York Times, titled “Harriet Tubman Ousts Andrew Jackson in Change for a $20.”
Shemo said it is important to recognize women in history and their actions to gain a different perspective of history.
“On the flip side of the $5 bill, the Lincoln Memorial would remain, but as the backdrop for the 1939 performance there of Marian Anderson, the African-American classical singer, after she was barred from singing at the segregated Constitution Hall nearby,” the Times article said. “Sharing space on the rear would be images of Eleanor Roosevelt, who arranged Anderson’s Lincoln Memorial performance, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who in 1963 delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech from its steps,” the Times article said. The final redesigns of the currency will be revealed in 2020 with circulation beginning later in the decade.
“I’m pleased that the first woman (on U.S. currency) is also an African-American, that we’re looking at how gender and race intersect,” Shemo said.
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