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Harriet Tubman to become first Black American on a US treasury bill

Anti-slavery crusader Harriet Tubman REUTERS/Library of Congress/Handout via Reuters

It is a touching tale of a black woman born into slavery replaces a white slave owner on  the $20 note. 

Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will appear on front of the $20 bill, replacing the seventh President of the US, Andrew Jackson,  a Treasury official said, in a design overhaul that will leave Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note.

The Treasury Department secretary Jack Lew announced the decision, which would make Tubman the first black American and second woman to appear on American paper currency, on Wednesday. The back of the $5 bill will also change to “depict civil rights leaders,” while the front will keep the image of Abraham Lincoln. Leaders of the women’s suffrage movement will appear on the back of the $10 bill.

Tubman was born into slavery in Maryland, and was regularly beaten and whipped by her slave masters. She escaped, and later made 13 separate missions to rescue scores of enslaved families, helping them reach the free Northern states. She was also an active participant in the women’s suffrage movement.

Lew initially said that changing the $20 note wouldn’t be possible because paper bills are regularly updated in rotation, and the $10 note was next due for an upgrade. He told Politico last July that the Treasury was looking into ways to mollify critics.

Under federal law, no living person can appear on a bill, and George Washington has to stay on the $1.