Later today, Secretary of the Treasury Jacob Lew is expected to announce major redesigns to the $10 and $20 bills. In June 2015, Lew confirmed that the department would redesign the $10 bill and replace Alexander Hamilton with a woman. The replacement was scheduled to appear in 2020—the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.
But the backlash was swift. Hamilton is undoubtedly having a moment (plus, as history nerds argued, Hamilton’s visage is more suited for money than, say, Andrew Jackson). And now, despite the initial announcement, it looks like Hamilton will stay on the $10 bill. The New York Times reports that, due to the popularity of Lin-Manuel’s musical, the bad-at-duels first Secretary of the Treasury will remain:
That was before the rap musical “Hamilton” created legions of fans for the man already on the bill, not only among well-to-do patrons shelling out big bucks for tickets on Broadway but also among tens of thousands of teenagers memorizing the lyrics and obsessing over details of the first Treasury secretary’s scrappy life story.
It did not help matters when “Hamilton” and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this week. Mr. Miranda personally pressed Mr. Lew to keep Hamilton front and center, rallying Hamiltonians around the country.
So some women, it seems, will go to the back of the $10 bill. It’s currently unknown which women will be featured, but Susan B. Anthony was initially discussed for the front. Earlier this week, Cokie Roberts expressed her disdain for the decision; in a Times column, she called it “another ‘wait your turn’ moment.”
But it’s not as grim as initially predicted. In fact, the news might actually be better. Politico reports that we won’t have to look directly at Andrew Jackson’s weirdly long chin anymore, because Lew is expected to announce that Harriet Tubman will now grace the $20 bill.
In April 2015, a “panel of citizens” chose Tubman from a list of famous American women. In addition to the Underground Railroad conductor, other yet-to-be-named Civil Rights leaders are expected to be added to the $5 bill.
It looks like the history inscribed on our currency will finally reflect a fuller narrative of America; now if only we could make acquiring currency as diverse.