Last month, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin disappointed advocates of putting the image of 19th-century abolitionist and slave liberator Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill when he told Congress that—for technical reasons—the unveiling of a new design for the currency would be delayed from its original date of 2020 until 2026, and that the new currency would not be introduced into circulation until 2028 at the earliest. And, oh, by the way, the new bill might not include Tubman’s engraved portrait. It seems that Mnuchin was being dishonest. In fact, according to The New York Times, a working design of a Tubman $20 bill was already available when Mnuchin was appointed to his post.
It crossed the mind of some people when Mnuchin made his remarks that this was just one more instance of Donald Trump dumping a policy move simply because it had been made by President Barack Obama. It was during Obama’s second term that the decision was made to put Tubman on the face of the $20 and put on the bill’s reverse the portrait of the slave-owning, Indian-hating President Andrew Jackson that has appeared on the front of the bill since 1928. It would be the first U.S. currency to depict an African American.
To nobody’s surprise, the decision was viewed in some right-wing quarters as politicizing our currency. Trump himself called the decision “pure political correctness,” as if no politics have been involved in previous choices of who appears on our bills and coins. He suggested Tubman should perhaps appear on the $2 bill, currency that many Americans are surprised to learn still exists.