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Will Harriet Tubman be the first female on the $20 note?

THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN: An online poll shows that escaped slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman is the overwhelming choice to replace Andrew Jackson's portrait on the US $20 note

SLAVE ABOLITIONIST Harriet Tubman could be the first woman to appear on America's $20 note.

Tubman was the winner of a 10-week poll conducted by the nonprofit group Women On 20s, which wants to replace former President Andrew Jackson with a woman on a $20 bill.

Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave, abolitionist and "conductor" on the so-called Underground Railroad that helped slaves escape to freedom during the 1850s, was the overwhelming choice to replace Jackson on the $20 note, the online poll showed yesterday (May 12).

Tubman received 33.6 percent of the 352,431 votes cast in the final round of the poll, followed by former First Lady and UN ambassador Eleanor Roosevelt, civil rights hero Rosa Parks, Reuters reported.

“Our work won’t be done until we’re holding a Harriet $20 bill in our hands in time for the centennial of women’s suffrage in 2020," Susan Ades Stone, executive director of the group Women on 20s, said in a statement.

The organisation said it had informed President Obama of the poll results and was urging him to instruct Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to authorise the currency redesign in time to put the new bills in circulation before the 100th anniversary in 2020 of ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which established women's right to vote nationally.


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Women on 20s said it focused on the $20 note because the nation's seventh president and founder of the Democratic Party, Andrew Jackson, had helped gain passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 that drove Native American tribes from the southeastern United States.

The group also said Jackson was an "ironic" choice for immortalisation on the $20 bill given his opposition to paper currency.

Tubman, who in addition to her efforts to free slaves, served as a spy and nurse for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Although she was the majority's favourite to replace Jackson, some black activist do not want their historical icon to feature on the note, deeming it disrespectful.

Kirsten West Savali, a cultural critic and senior writer for The Root argued: "There is something both distasteful and ironic about putting a black woman’s face on the most frequently counterfeited and most commonly traded dollar bill in this country.

"Haven’t we been commodified and trafficked enough? Slapping a black female face, one of our radical icons, on a $20 bill as if it’s some attainment of the American dream would be adding insult to injury."

She added: "I don’t want Harriet Tubman’s face on a $20 bill; I want our people to be free from the chains of institutionalized racism and economic slavery. That’s how we honour her."

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