Just one day after President Donald Trump raised the nation’s collective eyebrows by reportedly referring to Haiti and African nations as “s***hole countries” during a closed door Oval Office meeting, his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to confirm that Harriet Tubman would be receiving her promised place on the $20 bill. Jack Lew, treasury secretary under ex-President Obama, announced in 2016 that Tubman would be replacing Andrew Jackson on a future U.S. $20 note. As CNN Money reports, it generally takes over a decade for currency in the U.S. to be updated.
At the time of his announcement in 2016, Lew estimated that the year 2020 would include a revelation of the Harriet Tubman $20 bill design, and that Americans could expect to see the new bills in circulation shortly thereafter.
Steven Mnuchin made his concerning comments regarding the fate of the anticipated Harriet Tubman $20 at a January 12 interview at the Economic Club in Washington. According to the new treasury secretary, a decision on replacing the slave-holding former president with the abolitionist hero hasn’t yet been made by the Trump administration.
“We haven’t made any decisions on whether we will change the bill or won’t change the bill.”
Lew had previously announced that the design for the Tubman $20 would be revealed in 2020 and the bills would enter circulation as soon as possible after that.
As CNN Money reports, this isn’t the first time that Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has indicated that Harriet Tubman’s place on the $20 bill was less than secure. Back in August, Mnuchin gave a similar answer to Friday’s question when asked if he “supports” honoring Harriet Tubman by putting her on the $20 during a CNBC interview.
“Ultimately we will be looking at this issue, [but] It’s not something that I’m focused on at the moment.”
At the time, Mnuchin claimed that his primary concern regarding U.S. currency was enhancing anti-counterfeiting measures, a claim he circled back to and reiterated when discussing the Tubman issue on Friday.
While many Americans have come out in widespread support of the idea of Harriet Tubman replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, Mnuchin may be taking his cues on the matter from his boss, Donald Trump, who once denounced the plan as “political correctness.”
Trump admitted to disagreeing with the decision of former Treasury Secretary Lew in April 2016, while he was still hitting the campaign trail. The then-candidate referred to Harriet Tubman as “fantastic,” but went on to tout Jackson’s “great history” and call the plan to boot the former president and slave owner in favor of the heroic African-American abolitionist icon “pure political correctness.”
Trump probably thinks that Harriet Tubman actually build a real railroad that she put under the ground.
— Dakota Schmidt (@Dakota_Schmidt) January 12, 2018
“We the People” said we want Harriet Tubman on our currency!
Mnuchin gets to follow our wishes. He works for us, unfortunately, for awhile yet anyway.
— nan k. wiggins (@nan_wiggins) January 12, 2018
By the time this nightmare is over he’ll put himself on the bill. #Most Corrupt Administration Ever
— Kolleen bright (@bright_kolleen) January 12, 2018
What are the chances they scratch this?
— Sneaky Bongmaster (@jerweber) January 12, 2018
Tubman’s road to potential immortalization on the U.S. $20 has been fraught with twists and turns since its inception. The journey began over a year prior to Lew’s 2016 announcement, when the Obama treasury secretary began working on a plan to feature a woman on U.S. paper currency. The original plan was to tackle the $10 bill, which has yet to receive a security update; however, support for the idea of removing Alexander Hamilton, America’s first treasury secretary and the inspiration behind the namesake Broadway smash, was very limited.
In response to lackluster support for the original plan, the Obama Treasury Dept. decided to re-vamp not one but three banknotes to include prominent U.S. women.
- The $10 was to feature Hamilton on the front and a slew of American suffragettes, including Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony, on the back.
- The $20 was to see Jackson replaced by Harriet Tubman.
- The $5 would keep Lincoln on the front and feature the Lincoln Memorial on the back, as well as images of people associated with important events that took place at the memorial, including Eleanor Roosevelt.
Secretary Mnuchin will not say whether the Treasury Department will follow through with the Obama administration's plans to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, replacing Andrew Jackson. https://t.co/qN2GloI8e0
— CNNMoney Investing (@CNNMoneyInvest) January 12, 2018
Many applauded the decision to remove Andrew Jackson from the $20 bill due to his history as a slave owner and track record with Native Americans in the Southeast United States.
Trump Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wasn’t asked about plans for the $5 and $10 bills on Friday, nor did he elaborate on potential future plans for making design changes to the denominations. If Harriet Tubman is ultimately featured on the U.S. $20 bill as announced by the previous administration, she will be the first African-American woman to appear on paper currency in the United States and the first woman of any race to appear on a U.S. bill in over a century.
Mnuchin isn’t the only member of the Trump administration to demonstrate a lack of support for getting Harriet Tubman on the $20. In April of 2016, former Trump presidential rival and current Trump HUD Secretary Ben Carson publicly claimed that the place for Harriet Tubman on U.S. currency was the $2 bill, not the $20.