Poll picks Harriet Tubman as face of next $20 bill

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau
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Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave and Underground Railroad conductor, has won an online poll to replace President Andrew Jackson as the face of the $20 bill.

The nonprofit group Women On 20s revealed Tuesday the winner of its final round of voting. The other finalists were civil rights pioneer and longtime Detroiter Rosa Parks, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Cherokee Nation chief Wilma Mankiller.

The campaign involved more than 600,000 online voters. Tubman’s name was presented in a petition to President Barack Obama for consideration Tuesday, said organizers, who also sent a copy to the U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios.

The effort has grabbed the attention of some in Congress. U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, last month introduced a bill that would create a citizens panel to recommend a candidate to the treasury secretary.

The authority to redesign U.S. currency rests with that office. Women On 20s hopes Obama will direct Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to change the portrait on the $20 bill by 2020, coinciding with the centennial of women’s suffrage.

During a speech last summer, Obama indicated support for women on U.S. currency. He received a letter from a young girl who included a list of possible women to feature on bills or coins, “which I thought was a pretty good idea,” he told a crowd in Kansas City, Missouri.

The individuals featured on U.S. banknotes haven’t changed since 1929. Federal law says those depicted must be deceased.

Today’s currency is redesigned mainly to enhance security, and officials typically don’t vary the images within a series.

The newest $20 note entered into circulation in October 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

The redesign process takes several years, so it’s unclear whether the government could meet group’s goal of 2020.

A redesign of the current $10 note is set to be released into circulation in 2020. Work on that project began in June 2013.


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