The Internet was all abuzz today about the Treasury Department replacing dead president and slave master Andrew Jackson with freedom fighter Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Dozens of outlets reported on it as if it was a done deal although the official announcement from Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew hadn’t come.
Well, around 4 p.m. ET, Lew did announce that Tubman is going to be on the front of the $20 bill. But in a surprise twist, Treasury will keep Jackson on the currency—just on the back.
From Lew’s open letter, baffling in its lack of an explanation:
The decision to put Harriet Tubman on the new $20 was driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old. I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy. …
Looking back on her life, Tubman once said, “I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.” And she did fight, for the freedom of slaves and for the right of women to vote. Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embodies the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates, and we will continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency. The reverse of the new $20 will continue to feature the White House as well as an image of President Andrew Jackson.
The Treasury Department also launched a special website called Modern Money. It shows that the new $10 bill will keep Alexander Hamilton on the front but place what it calls a tribute to suffragists Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul on the back.
The new $5 will continue to feature President Abraham Lincoln on the front. The reverse “will depict the historic events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial” including Black opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 appearance there and the original March on Washington.
Several people have suggested that Tubman on the front, Jackson on the back is a late April Fool’s joke or the product of a 4/20 binge. It is neither. It’s America.