By Brad Dress

The Trump administration is declining to endorse a design proposed by the Obama administration  to seal historical abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s portrait on the $20 bill.

Tubman would have replaced the seventh President of the United States Andrew Jackson, whose portrait has resided on the bill since 1928.

After molding the plans for the swap in 2015, Obama’s administration had planned to make the change by 2020, holding confidence his successor wouldn’t alter the renovation.

Yet when Trump landed in office, this was just one of many plans Obama had set that would be either ignored or torn down by his administration.

President Trump, who suggested adding Tubman to the virtually unused $2 bill during his campaign instead, has not said anything on the matter since his induction into office, but his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined the plan and said that he has “more important issues to focus on” at the moment, according to The New York Times.

Changes to the bills have circulated before to combat counterfeit money, but not very often does the government change the portraits of the figures on the bills— only President Grover Cleveland, who formerly was on the $20 bill until the 1928 swap; and President Abraham Lincoln was changed from the $10 to the $5 bill.

Controversy has surrounded the issue because many believe women deserve a chance to have a place on paper currency, currently Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea are on U.S. coins. Many argue  Andrew Jackson represented the worst of democracy in America while Tubman highlighted the best side of it.

Some students at this university also said they disagreed with Trump’s move; Johao Megia, a junior chemical engineering major,  said it was “another action to show he shouldn’t be president.”

“Times are changing,” he added, “but [Trump] is still trying to live in the past.”

And junior biology major Stephany Argueta said it would have set “a good example for the younger people,” and that Tubman represents a strong ideal for America while Jackson does not.

Beginning in 2015 with the political group “Women on 20s,” the move to finally put historically-leading women on paper currency was coming to fruition, with the activists receiving more than 600,000 votes for the change, according to The Washington Post.

The Obama administration reacted and decided to introduce the concept, the then-Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announcing changes to the $5, $10 and $20 bill.

Historical figures Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jr. and Marian Anderson would appear on the back of the $5 bill, and the Women’s Suffrage March of 1913, accompanied by women’s rights leaders, would replace the back of the $10 bill.

And, of course, Tubman would replace Jackson.

Initially, Lew was going to move Tubman’s portrait to the $10 bill, but a public denial of replacing constitutional framer Alexander Hamilton swept the nation, so Lew settled on replacing Jackson on the front of the $20 bill and moving his portrait to the back of it, as reported by The New York Times.

Tubman not only fought for equal rights for both women and slaves but also was a leading member of The Underground Railroad—a web of antislavery activists who helped to shelter and boost slaves to escape the South in the nineteenth century.

Jackson, however, was known for the Trail of Tears—where he forced thousands of Native Americans from their homes and consequently caused many of them to die. He also owned an estimate of 150 slaves and caused a major recession in 1837.

The bills were slated to introduce to the public in 2020, with more trickling out as time passed, but the new administration’s move to block it will cease the production.

Although Trump has not made a statement on the issue, he attended Jackson’s birthday celebration in March, hung his portrait in his Oval Office and has cited him as an inspirational figure in his life.

It is unlikely, then, that Obama’s proposed plan will ever boot back up.

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pixabay.

Brad Dress is a junior journalism major and can be reached at

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