Staff Editorial: U.S. currency should celebrate female, minority historical figures

Move over, Andrew Jackson and your infamous, deadly policies against Native Americans. America’s new $20 bill may soon celebrate the face of a historical feminist woman.

The grassroots group Women on 20s is lobbying to replace the portrait of Jackson with one of Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks or Wilma Mankiller. The general public voted for these women––whoever wins the last round of voting will be presented to United States Congress as the suggested replacement for the $20 bill.

It’s about time historical American women are recognized for their social and political achievements. It is outdated to have currency decorated with old, white men who were most likely racist, owned slaves, took land from and harmed Native Americans. Although Sacagawea—who guided explorers Lewis and Clark through the American frontier—is featured on the dollar coin, that coin is unimportant and barely ever used.

One may think this change is trivial, but it actually matters in a larger context. Our currency is an important symbol of our country—it’s recognizable, cherished and upheld as a culturally significant tradition. The founding fathers and presidents whose faces grace our currency neither accurately represent our diverse history and population, nor recognize members of oppressed groups who have positively impacted our history.

It is not wrong to celebrate and to remember the founders and presidents of our country, but the teaching of our nation’s history often erases the contributions and experiences of oppressed minorities and women. Just like our history, our currency has been whitewashed. Replacing the $20 bill is a good step toward recognizing important individuals by allowing their faces to become familiar to everyday citizens of all ages.

We hope to see the image of an important black or Native American woman printed on the $20 bill. Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks are well-known and appreciated, but Wilma Mankiller—the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation—deserves more recognition.

No matter the outcome of the vote, we fully support the change and how it will positively impact our appreciation and obsession with our iconic currency. But first, we need Congress to actually pass it—hopefully with attention to our problematic history in mind.