Baylor Historian Gives Thumbs-Up after Call with Treasury Officials about Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill

  • Harriat Tubman
    The Treasury Department announced that the new $20 will feature the portrait of Harriet Tubman, whose life was dedicated to fighting for liberty, including as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. (Library of Congress)
  • Kimberly
    Kimberly Kellison, Ph.D., chair of Baylor history department
  • Treasury web page
    Building on feedback from Americans across the country about the theme of democracy, the Treasury Department will create new design concepts for the $20, $10, and $5 dollar notes.
April 20, 2016

Image of abolitionist on the bill’s front will help tell “the whole story” of the nation’s history, says history chair Kimberly Kellison

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Contact: Terry Goodrich, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (April 20, 2016) — Moments after she got off the phone Wednesday with U.S. Treasury officials, Kimberly Kellison, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of Baylor University’s history department, said she was “excited and enthusiastic” about the announcement that abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s portrait will replace former President Andrew Jackson's on the front of the $20 bill.

Kellison was among professional historians and leaders of women’s groups who joined a conference call with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios shortly after the announcement of that change as well as new concepts for the $5 and $10.

“We all shared the idea that this is a historic announcement,” Kellison said. “Secretary Lew said that women will be on all three bills in one place or another. I’m happy that women will be integral to all three notes in this family of bills.”

Kellison first caught the eye — and ear — of Treasury officials last year after she spotted an online poll of 20 women nominated as faces to grace currency. While Tubman was Kellison’s pick from that list, she also compiled an additional list of deserving but lesser-known women who met the Treasury’s criteria as champions of democracy or who helped break boundaries in a democratic society.

That second list prompted an invitation to a roundtable discussion with Lew and Rios in Washington, D.C., last year to provide feedback on the change.

"After her own escape from slavery, Tubman risked danger and re-enslavement by returning to the South countless times to help other slaves escape," Kellison said. "While there are many women who deserve to be recognized for their contributions to American democracy, Tubman's story has universal meaning because of her efforts to provide and ensure the most fundamental right of humankind: liberty."

The Treasury had initially planned to display the image of an American woman on the $10 to replace Alexander Hamilton, one of the country’s founding fathers, but that changed after the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” sparked renewed popularity for Hamilton. (The production also snagged a Pulitzer this week.)

Kellison said that redesign concepts call for Hamilton to remain on the front of the $10 bill, while leaders of the suffrage movement will be depicted on the other side. President Abraham Lincoln will remain on the front of the $5 bill, with the reverse side to depict historic events at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Martin Luther King’s historic 1963 speech “I Have a Dream” and African-American singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert.

The reverse of the new $20 will feature Jackson and the White House.

The new designs are to be released in 2020, the 100th anniversary of U.S. women gaining the right to vote.

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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