The Treasury Department announced Wednesday that abolitionist Harriet Tubman will replace former President Andrew Jackson on the new $20 bill – while Alexander Hamilton will remain on the front of the $10 note.
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew formally announced an array of design changes to America’s currency, largely geared toward honoring the contribution of women in the country’s history.
“Our currency will now tell more of our story,” Lew said.
In being featured on the front of the $20 bill, Tubman will be the first African American on U.S. paper money ever, and the first woman in 100 years.
Lew called it a “powerful message,” and described Tubman’s life as the “essential story of American democracy.” Jackson, the nation's seventh president and a slave owner, will be pushed to the back of the bill.
Lew said the back of the $5 bill also will be changed to reflect historical events at the Lincoln Memorial – including Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and black female singer Marian Anderson’s famous 1939 performance. The back of the $10 note, he said, will honor heroes of the campaign for women’s right to vote.
But on the front of that bill will remain Hamilton, whom Lew described as the “architect of our economic system.”
Lew is hoping to unveil the new bills in 2020.
Lew’s announcement follows a heated debate ever since he said last summer the government planned to incorporate a woman on the $10 bill.
That set off a firestorm of protests from supporters of Hamilton, the first Treasury secretary. They argued the founding father had molded the nation's financial architecture and should not be removed from his rightful place on the currency.
Hamilton fans got a boost from the interest generated by the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton." Earlier this year, Lew was personally lobbied by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the author and star of "Hamilton," during a meeting at Treasury.
Treasury all together received more than 1.5 million responses to Lew's request for suggestions on the currency redesign. That prompted him to delay an announcement, which he had originally said would be made by the end of 2015.
Meanwhile, an online group, Women on 20s, campaigned for a woman on the $20 bill. Jackson's critics say he should not be on U.S. currency because of the part he played in the relocation of Native Americans. And in a poll conducted last year by Women on 20s, Tubman, the African-American abolitionist and one of the leaders of the Underground Railroad, was the top vote getter to replace him.
Still, the change is likely to inflame lawmakers from Tennessee, which Jackson represented in Congress before becoming president. The state also generally claims the former president was born in an area that is now part of Tennessee.
The last woman featured on U.S. paper money was Martha Washington, who was on a dollar silver certificate from 1891 to 1896. The only other woman ever featured on U.S. paper money was Pocahontas, from 1865 to 1869. Susan B. Anthony and Sacagawea are on dollar coins.
A woman, a leader, and a freedom fighter. I can't think of a better choice for the $20 bill than Harriet Tubman: https://t.co/YcsZC4ZrKg -H— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) April 20, 2016
I cannot think of an American hero more deserving of this honor than Harriet Tubman. https://t.co/GL64NPrOL1— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) April 20, 2016
The Democratic 2016 presidential candidates both hailed the decision announced Wednesday.
Fox Business Network’s Jennifer Schonberger, Fox News' Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.