Why Is Alexander Hamilton Staying On The $10 Bill, And Andrew Jackson Being Kicked Off The $20?
According to a report from Politico Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will announce that Alexander Hamilton's face will stay on the $10 bill, despite months of speculation that he could be replaced. On the other hand, the $20 bill is getting a complete shakeup. Andrew Jackson will reportedly be bumped in favor of Harriet Tubman, one of the most prominent abolitionists in history, an escaped slave and a member of the Underground Railroad, which rescued tens of thousands from slavery in the mid-1800's. According to the Harriet Tubman Historical Society, she directly guided the escapes of more than 300 people over the course of 19 trips.
It's curious news, considering Hamilton's place on the 10 had been a topic of conversation over the last few months ― as recently as January, Lew had reportedly considered taking the first-ever Treasury Secretary and Founding Father off the front of the bill, at the very least, and having it carry the face of the first-ever woman to appear on U.S. paper currency. But now, it clearly seems as though the thinking has changed ― Hamilton stays, and Jackson, the highly controversial seventh President of the United States who engineered genocide against Native Americans, is getting the ax.
So the obvious question is: Why? Not "Why is Tubman going on the $20?" to be clear, because that part's fairly obvious. America's way past due to finally have a woman on our money, and Tubman's a towering figure in American history. She'll also be the first black woman ever on U.S. currency, taking a spot alongside some of the founding leaders of the country (many of whom, mind you, were themselves ardent racists and slave owners).
Rather, why is Jackson the one getting the cut instead of Hamilton? Well, there's one possible explanation, beyond the simple fact that Jackson's legacy is far, far bloodier, with the Trail of Tears being a permanent stain on the national conscience. Namely, Jackson isn't the subject of a mega-hit, Pulitzer-Prize-winning musical right now (although he was the subject of a rock musical years ago, incidentally). In short, with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton still the hottest ticket American theater, and an eminently offensive figure like Jackson ripe to be replaced, it's easy to conclude that the musical's huge impact may have made this choice even easier.
It should be welcome news for all the people who've been advocating for diversity on the money, too. Speaking in purely subjective terms, the 20 is a bit more of a prestige bill than the 10. And the 10 is still getting a redesign, too — the back will be updated to feature "leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote."
Make no mistake, it'll be a powerful sight once the new bills actually enter circulation, especially seeing Tubman's face front-and-center on that 20. It's not that there's no controversy, to be clear ― a slew of high-profile women signed on to an open letter Wednesday criticizing Lew for the delayed timeline. The actual introduction of the new $20 bill could take more than a decade, and that's the real sour note in this otherwise exciting news.