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Opinion & Editorial

What Our Treasury Department Is Getting Wrong

Last June, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the $10 bill would be redesigned, and a woman would replace Alexander Hamilton’s face on the new note. While many were delighted at the thought of the first American currency item to feature a woman, there was significant outrage at the fact that Alexander Hamilton would lose his spot on the note.

Hamilton, a Founding Father of the United States, served as its first Treasury Secretary, organized the American financial system, and is praised in history for having done so. Rather than replace Hamilton, many Americans suggested that the $20 bill, featuring President Andrew Jackson, was the correct note to redesign.

Jackson served as the 7th President and before that was a successful general and politician. But Jackson is also notable for his poor treatment of the Native American population and his dislike for the National Bank, an institution envisioned and established by Hamilton.

Therefore, when the Treasury Department announced that Harriet Tubman would be replacing Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, the decision was met with praise. Jackson will still be on the back of the note.

Tubman was an abolitionist during the Civil War and helped free many slaves. Her many heroic actions are taught in history classrooms all throughout the United States, and as Secretary Lew said in an open letter to the American people, “I have been particularly struck by the many comments and reactions from children for whom Harriet Tubman is not just a historical figure, but a role model for leadership and participation in our democracy.”

The irony of the situation is that Harriet Tubman is going to be on the same note as a man who not only owned slaves, but also was committed to forcing Native Americans off of their land in a mass emigration known as the Trail of Tears. How can her legacy properly be honored while Andrew Jackson remains on the $20 bill?


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