WASHINGTON–Harriet Tubman–former slave, abolitionist, “conductor” on the Underground Railroad–will not become the face of the $20 bill until after Trump leaves office, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday.
Plans to unveil the Tubman bill in 2020, an Obama administration initiative would be postponed until at least 2026, Mr. Mnuchin said, and the bill itself would not likely be in circulation until 2028.
Until then, bills with former President Andrew Jackson’s face will continue to pour out of A.T.M.s and fill Americans’ wallets.
Mr. Mnuchin, concerned that the president might create an uproar by canceling the new bill altogether, was eager to delay its redesign until Mr. Trump was out of office, some senior Treasury Department officials have said. As a presidential candidate in 2016, Mr. Trump criticized the Obama administration’s plans for the bill.
That April, Mr. Trump criticized the proposed change as “pure political correctness” and suggested that Tubman, whom he praised, could be added to a far less common denomination like the $2 bill. “Andrew Jackson had a great history, and I think it’s very rough when you take somebody off the bill,” Mr. Trump said at the time.
Mr. Trump has frequently described Jackson, whose portrait hangs in the Oval Office, as a populist hero who reminds him of himself. Two months into his presidency, Mr. Trump stopped to lay a wreath at Jackson’s tomb at the Hermitage, his plantation in Nashville. “It was during the Revolution that Jackson first confronted and defied an arrogant elite,” Mr. Trump told a crowd gathered there. “Does that sound familiar?”
The delay comes three years after Mr. Mnuchin’s predecessor, Jacob J. Lew, announced plans for a sweeping and symbolic redrawing of the currency that would see Tubman replace the slaveholding Jackson on the face of the note.
Treasury Department officials did not say whether Mr. Trump had a hand in the decision, and Mr. Mnuchin would not say whether he himself believes that Tubman should be on the bill’s face. “I’ve made no decision as it relates to that,” Mr. Mnuchin said Wednesday at a congressional hearing in response to a question from Representative Ayanna S. Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts.
During the hearing, Mr. Mnuchin said that he was now focused on enhancing the anti-counterfeiting security features of the currency, focusing first on the $10 and $50 bills. Designing new imagery is on the back burner.
“It is my responsibility now to focus on what is the issue of counterfeiting and the security features,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The ultimate decision on the redesign will most likely be another secretary down the road.”
Replacing Jackson with Tubman was both filled with symbolism and marred by controversy.
Tubman was born into slavery, escaped and then returned to the South, where she led other slaves to freedom. She was a Union scout during the Civil War and later advocated women’s voting rights. Jackson orchestrated the removal of Native Americans from lands to the east of the Mississippi River and sent them marching west on the so-called Trail of Tears.
In 2017, speculation began that Mr. Trump might scrap Mr. Lew’s plan for the $20 bill when mentions of it were scrubbed from the Treasury Department’s website during a redesign.
Then, that August, Mr. Mnuchin made clear that Tubman’s future on the bill was in doubt.“People have been on the bills for a long period of time,” he told CNBC. “This is something we’ll consider. Right now, we’ve got a lot more.