One of the early policy changes made by President Joe Biden was announcing his administration would explore ways to speed up the process to put Harriet Tubman on the front of the $20 bill.
To some, the move seems a poor use of resources when the administration and country face so many daunting issues.
But as White House press secretary Jen Psaki said when announcing the move, “It is important that our ... money reflect the history and diversity of our country.”
Biden has made diversity a centerpiece of his administration and putting the first African American woman on U.S. currency reflects the fact that America today is not the same country it was and that diversity matters. (There have been other women on currency, almost all on coins, however, Martha Washington landed on the $1 silver certificate paper currency first printed in 1886.)
The idea of putting Tubman on the $20 was first raised during the Obama administration. But President Trump and his Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put the brakes on the plan, with Trump labeling it “pure political correctness.”
Tubman, who died in 1913, was a civil-rights pioneer who was born into slavery in the early 1800s. She escaped slavery and later helped free dozens of other slaves, as well as guiding gunboats containing Black Union soldiers across rivers to free hundreds more slaves, leading to her being dubbed the “Moses of her people.”
She has been a leading candidate to be the first woman on the $20.
In a national survey, she topped other historically significant women who could be on $20, beating out the likes of Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Putting a female civil-rights champion on U.S. currency is past due. The faces put on currency have meaning. Tubman’s historical significance and her life, which represents many of the qualities the country stands for, makes her a fitting person to honor.