Harriet Tubman to be first African-American on US currency

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For the first time in history, the US is set to put celebrated anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman on a $20 bill in place of former president Andrew Jackson, making her first woman to appear on an American banknote in more than a century. 

She will also be the first African-American to appear on US currency while Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president and a slave owner, will be pushed to the back of the bill.

Tubman was born a slave in 1820 in Maryland. She escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved families and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.

A new $10 bill will add images of five female leaders of the women's suffrage movement, including Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to the back, while keeping founding father Alexander Hamilton on the front.

The back of the $5 bill - which depicts Abraham Lincoln on the front - will show prominent leaders from US history including singer Marian Anderson, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights leader Martin Luther King.

The women last depicted on US bills were former first lady Martha Washington, on the $1 silver certificate from 1891 to 1896, and Native American Pocahontas, in a group photo on the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869.

Bureau of Engraving and Printing will work closely with the Federal Reserve to accelerate work on the new $20 and $5 notes, with the goal that all three new notes go into circulation as quickly as possible, consistent with security requirements. The designs would  be unveiled by 2020 and go into circulation as quickly as possible.


The long-awaited decision to replace the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson with Tubman followed months of outreach by the Treasury regarding which woman should be featured on a bill.

The debate began when the Treasury announced plans in June to feature a woman on the $10 note, prompted partly by a young girl's letter to President Barack Obama that criticized the lack of women on U.S. currency and a social media campaign last year called "Women on 20s."

Why not Indian women on currency?

In India, there is not a single instance of a woman's portrait on a currency note, right from the time paper currency came into being, through the British era and till today. 

In history there are some examples of prominent women featuring on coins as Samudragupta's mother, Kumaradevi, princess of Lichchhavi, featured on gold coins of the Gupta era. 

Victoria featured on every Indian coin for nearly 60 years. The Indian government has issued coins with Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahavir Jain or Vallabhbai Patel but why not a coin  coins featuring Rani Laxmibai or Sarojini Naidu?

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