This week, the U.S. Treasury announced the face on the $20 bill would change from Andrew Jackson to perhaps his ultimate human opposite, slavery abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Tubman was an escaped slave who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading slaves to freedom outside what would become the Confederate states, at risk to her own life. Jackson, who owned slaves, rose to the presidency as a civil war hero and became known for policies which led to the deaths of Native Americans. Actually, they will share a space on a new $20 bill, with Tubman getting top billing.
Tubman is the first woman in more than a century and the first African American to have a face on a paper note. Jackson moves to the back alongside an image of the White House.
Perhaps because of the smash Broadway play bearing his name, which this week won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Alexander Hamilton, who was targeted for replacement on the $10 bill by a woman, gets a reprieve.
Heated debate has banked up the airwaves and social media about changes to our currency notes. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernake even put his money where his mouth is, saying Tubman is an "excellent and deserving choice" and that because he was a founder of the Federal Reserve, Hamilton's claim was stronger than any to stay on a bill.
We will have to wait until 2020 to see the final concept designs of new $5, $10 and $20 bills. Coincidentally, 2020 will also mark the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment, the one that gave women the right to vote. On the day of the New York primary election, women, presumably, stuck their "I voted" stickers to the grave of Susan B. Anthony, one face on the U.S. Dollar coin, as a tribute to her work for women's suffrage. Anthony, along with fellow suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth and Lucretia Mott, will grace the back of the new $10 bill.
The $5 bill will keep Abraham Lincoln on the front and include mid-twentieth century civil rights icons, including Eleanor Roosevelt, opera singer Marian Anderson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
It's a long process for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to work as quickly as possible while making sure to meet security requirements and applying the latest security technology to the new bills to avoid counterfeiting.
Treasury secretary Jacob J. Lew said including more images of historical Americans will allow the currency to tell more of the great American stories of the individuals who shaped the United States.