New faces on bills: Paying respect to historical figures

May 18, 2016

Andrew Jackson, former President and slaveowner, back to back with Harriet Tubman, former slave and abolitionist? In 1850, this would have been unheard of, but very soon, this is what is going to happen. Tubman will appear on the front of the $20 bill, shifting Jackson to the rear.

The announcement of this money makeover was made by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on Wednesday, April 20. The redesigned currency is expected to be circulated by 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote.

According to NPR’s report, Tubman being the face of the $20 bill carries a special historical resonance: $20 is the amount Tubman eventually received from the U.S. government as her monthly pension for her service during the Civil War, as well as her status as the widow of a veteran.

The push for this change came from a viral campaign to feature women on currency. President Obama welcomed this currency makeover when the announcement was made. In this society, now is the time for change.

Changing a face on paper money has no physical effects. The denomination of the $20 bill stays the same. One will still pay for products the same exact way as before. However, this redesign symbolizes a much deeper issue than paying for a fast food meal in the mall food court. This is paying respect to historical figures who don’t receive the recognition they deserve. This is paying respect to the people of today’s generations that don’t get a voice.

In 1900, near the beginning of paper currency distribution in the U.S., minorities made up 13.4% of the total population. Now, according to U.S. News, the United States is becoming a “Minority-Majority Nation”. The Census Bureau reported in 2014 that there were more than 20 million children under 5 years old living in the U.S., and 50.2% of them were minorities.

Tubman fought for the equality of slaves, to free them from their oppressive lives through the Underground Railroad. And now, she is fighting for equality through the $20 bill. A century ago, the mere thought of having Tubman on the dollar bill would have been out of the question. But in the United States that we now live in, this is a timely addition for the representation of minorities. She represents the fight for gender and race equality, because yes, they still do not exist yet.

Tubman will forever be remembered for her efforts to improve racial equality, and she will continue to do so on the $20 bill.

This new $20 bill will have a newfound purpose. It will not only pay for whatever you need to buy. It will be paying respect to underappreciated historical figures and to the underappreciated people of the present.

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