I tend to carry primarily $20 bills in my wallet, as I find them to be the most versatile of currency. Small enough to be used at a basketball game concession stand, yet large enough to be utilized if one were to come across an extraordinary item that simply must be purchased. Imagine my excitement when I heard the announcement that Harriet Tubman would soon grace the front of this practically perfect bill.
But wait, there’s more! Not only will Tubman appear front and center on the $20 bill, but there will be several other changes occurring within American currency. Andrew Jackson, the former face of the bill, will be shifted to the back, which he will share with an image of the White House. Originally, a woman would replace Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, but the plan was abandoned in favor of an image of women’s suffrage on the back. This will begin a phasing out of the picture of the Treasury building. The back of the $5 will also be altered to display a revamped image of the Lincoln Memorial honoring major events in the civil rights movement. Last but not least, the bills will now have a “tactile feature” to assist the blind.
Harriet Tubman is an excellent choice for the first African American to appear on U.S. currency. When in her 20s, she escaped slavery and throughout her lifetime helped dozens of slaves escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Tubman suffered from headaches and seizures her entire life, but didn’t let that stop her from serving as a Union Army spy during the Civil War. She was also the first woman to lead an armed military raid. Later on, Tubman was a fierce fighter for women, people with disabilities, the elderly, and minorities.
It’s worth noting that without the musical “Hamilton”, we would likely be bidding farewell to Alexander Hamilton. The original plan was to place a woman on the $10 bill, not the $20. However, thanks to the overwhelming success of the hip-hop biography, Alexander Hamilton’s popularity skyrocketed. Therefore, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Alice Paul, and Sojourner Truth will be granted an appearance on the back and our first Treasury secretary will get to hang around the front for a bit longer.
Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marian Anderson will be placed on the back of the $5 bill in celebration of the civil rights movement. MLK is practically a shoo-in, Eleanor Roosevelt is rather understandable, but who in the world is Marian Anderson? An acclaimed singer, Anderson aided in setting the stage for the civil rights movement when she performed at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Her repertoire also includes being the first African American to be invited to perform at the White House and perform as a member of the New York Metropolitan Opera. She was awarded the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Although little known, Marian Anderson was an incredibly woman and a true trailblazer.
It was not until I began conducting some research for this post that I learned about the new “tactile feature” to appear on U.S. currency. I am incredibly disappointed in the lack of attention this remarkable advance is receiving. Numerous countries already have features on currency to cater to their visually impaired citizens, but the U.S. has only recently hopped on the bandwagon. Yes, there are apps, organizers, and more to aid in money identification, but these features are far too complicated and arduous to be truly practical. There has not been an overflow of details on what these new accessibility features will be like, but they are sure to revolutionize the way a large number of American citizens interact with our currency.
The lineup of dead white guys plastered across our currency is honestly rather boring. It is long past time that we make alterations to the bland, backwards, and bigoted gentlemen that we are forced to gaze upon day after day. The new faces soon to grace United States currency is a step in the right direction. It is with a heavy heart, however, that I recognize the outstandingly offensive responses to the changes.
Women are told far too often that they need to smile. This includes Harriet Tubman. People are actually criticizing the fact that in photographs Tubman is not smiling. What about the men on all of our other currency that look as though they were just told that their dog died? Their somber frowns are considered dignified and austere. A woman lacking an infomercial-esque grin is called grumpy, frightening, and told that she would be prettier if she just put on a smile. Is it possible to groan through a blog post? Even Donald Trump has stated that he believes Tubman should not be placed on the $20 bill. Unsurprising, honestly, but disappointing nonetheless.
Regardless of these disgusting reactions to this revolutionary change, I simply cannot wait until 2020, when these glorious new bills will begin their release. I’ll pay for my feminist tees in diverse dollars, truly putting my money where my mouth is. For if I preach diversity and equality, I ought to pay in it as well!