Rep. Elijah Cummings expressed “significant disappointment” at the Treasury Department’s delay in placing Harriet Tubman’s image on the $20 bill, and asked for a commitment that the department won’t abandon the plan to honor the Maryland-born abolitionist leader.
The decision to replace Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, with Tubman on the $20 bill had been made by Mnuchin’s predecessor, former Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who served in the Obama administration.
Born a slave in Dorchester County, Tubman is the most famous “conductor” on the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad that led slaves to freedom. A national historical park honors her legacy in the Eastern Shore county, where there a giant mural was recently completed showing her extending an encouraging hand to people walking by.
“With this important history in mind, we ask that you reaffirm the Treasury's previous commitment to feature Harriet Tubman on the $20 note and provide an updated time frame for the reveal and circulation of all Federal Reserve notes currently undergoing the redesign process,” Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, and New York Republican Rep. John Katko wrote in a letter Thursday.
The congressmen sent the letter to Mnuchin, who said last month that the change in the $20 bill wouldn’t come at least until after the $10 bill and $50 bill were redesigned. He said the redesign of those bills was being done first to introduce new security features to make it harder for them to be counterfeited.
The Obama administration had timed the Tubman bill to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, in 2020.
The Tubman bill’s fate had been in doubt since the 2016 campaign based on critical comments by then-candidate Donald Trump, who branded the move an act of “pure political correctness.”
Cummings and Katko said in their letter that “while we understand the many critical security considerations that must go into the redesign of any Federal Reserve note, representation for women and people of color on our nation's currency is long overdue.”
There was no response Thursday from the Treasury Department to the letter.
The Associated Press contributed to this article