A portrait of Harriet Tubman, African-American abolitionist and a Union spy during the American Civil War, circa 1870.
Photo by HB Lindsey/Underwood Archives/Getty

Harriet Tubman to replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill


Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Wednesday that abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

The long-awaited decision keeps Alexander Hamilton, one of the U.S. founding fathers, on the front of the $10 bill — though suffragists who fought to give women the right to vote will be added to the back of the bill, the Treasury Department confirmed.

“I’m very excited by it and I think it’s much bigger than just honoring one woman,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told NBC News. “This is about saying that our money is going to tell a much bigger part of our story.”

Lew said the back of the $10 will tell the story of women’s suffrage more generally with the movement’s leaders demonstrating on the steps of the Treasury building.

The back of the $5 will depict famous events from the Lincoln Memorial — such as the historic moment when First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt invited Marian Anderson to sing on the monument’s steps because the concert halls in Washington D.C. were segregated. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, will also be depicted.

The bills will be unveiled in 2020—the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.

Last year, the U.S. Treasury surprised advocates who were pressing to get a woman on the $20 bill, by announcing a woman would go on the redesigned $10 bill, instead. That plan met with criticism by those who pushed for Jackson to be replaced instead.

“We did this the old fashioned way, we said we were going to listen to the American people and we did. We heard a lot of commentary that a woman should be on the $20, not the $10,” Lew told NBC News.

“There was a sense that’s the bill that people use the most. If we’re really going put a woman on a bill that people see, as being an important statement, it should be the $20.”

Hamilton, who has experienced a resurgence in popularity thanks to a hit Broadway production, helped create the Treasury. Fans have been captivated with his life story.

“Hamilton’s surge in popularity has been building over time, it didn’t just happen now with the Broadway show,” said Kari Winter, director of the Gender Institute at the University at Buffalo. “Over the last few years there have been major biographies written about him, so this has been happening for a few years now. Hamilton is a romantic figure in so many ways. He is one of our most interesting founders.”

Known as “Moses” to her people, Tubman is famous for helping lead slaves to freedom on the Underground Railroad. She also helped nurse ill Union troops, helped fight for the end of slavery and was a suffragist who advocated for women to have the right to vote.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers lauded the choice.

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, who last year introduced legislation to push the Treasury to put a woman on the $20 bill, said in a statement that the move was a powerful symbol.

“It is crazy that women have been mostly absent from our money up until now, with only a few exceptions,” Gutiérrez said in a statement. “Women and men are equal partners in our nation’s success and our money should reflect that. Sure, it is only symbolic, but U.S. money is just about as powerful a symbol as there is in this world.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, was similarly excited.

‎This is a developing story. Please refresh for details. This article originally appeared on NBCNews.com.

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