WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for his 19th century predecessor Andrew Jackson is stoking fears he may cancel plans to replace that controversial President on the $20 bill with abolitionist Harriet Tubman.
The Treasury Department announced a year ago that by 2020 it would remove slave-owner Jackson’s likeness in favor of an image of Tubman, an African-American who escaped from slavery and helped others to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
Tubman, who also fought for women to be granted the right to vote, would be the first African-American as well as the first woman to appear on a US banknote.
With nine billion in circulation, the $20 bill is among the most widely used denomination along with $1 bills, which number 11.7 billion.
During the administration of President Barack Obama, the Treasury conducted a survey on who should be the first woman to appear on the currency, and selected Tubman.
Another survey by “Women on 20s,” a group calling for a woman to appear on the $20 banknote, collected more than a half-million responses in an online poll in which Tubman was first out of four finalists, including civil rights icon Rosa Parks and stateswoman and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
But since Trump’s election, Andrew Jackson’s stock has risen strikingly in the White House, a development that worries Tubman supporters.
Displayed in the Oval Office
“We are keeping a very close eye as to any further signal and any delay or change in the progress towards having design and production ready for Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill by 2020,” Women on 20s Founder Barbara Ortiz told AFP.
Trump “seems to be using every opportunity to extol the virtues of Jackson,” she said, recalling that Jackson was a slave owner and his role in the “Trail of Texas.”
Jackson oversaw the start of forcible expulsions of Native Americans from their ancestral lands in the southeastern United States to areas west of the Mississippi River, resulting in thousands of deaths from starvation, exposure and disease.
As a military officer, Jackson also led an invasion of Spanish Florida to destroy the “Negro Fort,” where former slaves had settled.
Five days after his inauguration, Trump displayed Jackson’s portrait prominently in the Oval Office, drawing inspiration from the former army commander, who was famed for his success in battle against the British and seen as a “man of the people.”
Trump’s advisor Stephen Bannon also praised Trump’s inaugural address as “very Jacksonian.”
Last week, Trump laid a wreath by Jackson’s tomb at his former Tennessee plantation, marking the 250th anniversary of his birth. Trump praised the “very great” Jackson for taking on “an arrogant elite.”
“Does that sound familiar to you?” Trump asked.
When Tubman’s selection was announced during his campaign, Trump panned the choice as “purely politically correct,” and said Tubman’s picture would be better placed on the $2 bill, which is hardly used.
The Treasury Department declined to comment.
Before his departure, former Treasury secretary Jack Lew considered unveiling the new bill’s design publicly to help make the change irreversible. But this was nixed to avoid encouraging counterfeiters.
Instead, in January and during Trump’s inaugural ceremonies, the Treasury, which is located next to the White House, displayed portraits of the heroes emblazoned on banknotes, George Washington ($1 bill), Abraham Lincoln ($5 bill), Alexander Hamilton (the first Treasury secretary who appears on the $10 bill) and Harriet Tubman, slated to appear on the $20 bill.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday joked that Trump himself should appear on the $1,000 bill, which is no longer in circulation.