The former slave Harriet Tubman was a key figure in the post-war commemoration of African-American involvement in US public life even after her death. A campaign in America is currently trying to replace the former President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) with the likeness of Tubmann on the 20-dollar note. The Department of the Treasury would be happy to place a woman on the 10-dollar note, but seated next to Jackson. Harriet Tubman has advanced to the epicentre of a current social debate.

1. Women on 20s

"The first campaign"


In early 2015, the pressure group “Women on 20s” called for a poll to decide which woman should replace Andrew Jackson on the 20-dollar note. Of the 600,000 votes cast, Harriet Tubman emerged as the favourite. A petition was presented to President Obama to put a woman on the new 20-dollar bill by the centenary of female suffrage in 2020.

The campaign “Women on 20s” can be followed online

and via the hashtags


Harriet Tubman in public memory

  • Buried with military honours in Auburn, New York on 10 March 1913
  • A US Navy transport ship was named “SS Harriet Tubman” in 1944
  • A number of schools in the USA carry her name e.g. the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in New York City
  • Harriet Tubmann appeared in the front row of a number of prominent African Americans on postage stamps in 197
  • Harriet Tubman featured in a number of children's books in the 1960s
  • She is the subject of a number of biographies e.g. by Cathrine Clinton (2004)
  • She is venerated as a saint by the episcopal Chruch of the United States

2. The New Ten

"The Secound Try"

Speaking in 2015, the US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that a woman would be pictured on the 10-$ note, together with the founding father Alexander Hamilton (1755/57 –1804). An online poll would be launched to decide which lady would feature. A number of suggestions were made in the media, including:

  • Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) feminist, abolitionist
  • Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) political activist and first lady
  • Wilma Mankiller (1945–2010) Chief of the Cherokee Nation

Seeking to include the public in the search, they called for suggestions under the hash tag


Commentary in the New York Times

“Take Jackson Off the $ 20 Bill, Put a Woman in His Place"


There is no question that the United States should put a woman on its paper currency. But the Treasury Department’s plan to put one on the $ 10 bill, which currently has the image of Alexander Hamilton, is the wrong way to do it.”


“Women on 20s” in the New York Daily News

Susan Ades Stone and Barbara Ortiz Howard, the founders of the organization “Women on 20s” wrote of their disappointment at the decision of Jacob Lew.

“By not evicting Jackson (who, ironically, despised paper money and Hamilton’s central banking system), diminishing Hamilton and giving women shared billing, Lew managed to please almost no one and offend many. By any calculus, half a ten hardly equals a twenty.”


3. The New Banknote?

The organization “Women on 20s” campaigned to put Harriet Tubman on a 20 $ note by 202o, the centenary of her birth. Speaking on 20 April 2016, Jacob Lew announced that Harriet Tubman would be depicted on the front of the new 20-$ note; Andrew Jackson would be shown on the reverse.

The new 10 and 5-$ notes would also feature women: The rear of the 10-$ note would display Lucretia Mott (1793 – 1880), Sojourner Truth (1798 – 1883), Susan B. Anthony (1820 – 1906), Elisabeth Cady Stanton (1815 – 1902) and Alice Paul (1885 – 1977), all leading figures in the women’s movement. In the future, the rear of the 5-$ note, the front of which shows Abraham Lincoln, will now display a series of events hosted at the Lincoln Memorial, including the singer Marian Anderson (1897 – 1993), the activist and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884 – 1962) and the civil rights activist Rev. Martin Luther King Junior (1929 – 1968).

The Department of the Treasury hopes to have all three designs ready by 2020, the centenary of female suffrage in the USA. The launch date for the new notes is as yet, unclear.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew explained his decision in an open letter:

The homepage of the Department of the Treasury provides information about the new banknotes: