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Tubman future on $20 in doubt

Will Harriet Tubman get chucked off the $20 bill before she even appears on it?

Could be.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin raises this possibility as decisions of his predecessor are called into question.

He talked to CNBC yesterday:

“Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s not something I’m focused on at the moment.”

Last year, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew ordered sweeping changes to American paper money in response to public pressure from Women on $20s.

Lew bumped Andrew Jackson from the $20 to be replaced by Tubman.

It was Tubman who won a 2015 vote on the Women on $20s' website.

The decision to change the $20 was actually second choice.

Lew originally wanted to push Alexander Hamilton off the $10.

However, the success of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” stayed his hand.

Hamilton suddenly had huge support.

Jackson on the $20 then became the intended focus of change.

Lew decided that the backs of the $5 and $10 Federal Reserve Notes were also to be transformed.

He asked for five women’s rights activists be put on the back of the new $10 to replace the Treasury Building.

They are Sojourner Truth, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Alive Paul and Elizabeth Cade Stanton.

Lew also wanted to put Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the back of the $5.

The current $5 depicts the Lincoln Memorial.

This would not be removed so much as altered.

This historical building was the site of two important civil rights moments in history.

African-American singer Marian Anderson appeared there in 1939 as arranged by Roosevelt after she had been barred because of her race from Constitution Hall.

Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

What Mnuchin will choose to do is unknown.

I wrote a blog entry and front-page article in Numismatic News on a possible reprieve for Jackson after the November presidential election.

This development with Mnuchin makes it seem even more likely.

However, the Treasury Seceretary also says he is “concentrating on making sure any tweaks to U.S. currency bills thwart counterfeiters.”

But, of course, that is what Lew said he was doing.

Whatever the changes might be, they will not begin to make their appearance in circulation until the 2020s.

This means a public discussion could go on for a very long time.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog for the third time in 2017 . He is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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