Financial History Issue 120 (Winter 2017) | Page 22

FOR THE LOVE OF MONEY Blacks on US Currency

On April 20 , 2016 , US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that Harriet Tubman will be featured on the front of a redesigned $ 20 note set to debut in 2020 . Tubman will be the first Black person and first woman to appear on the front of US paper money . Lew ’ s announcement also revealed that Sojourner Truth will appear on the back of a new $ 10 note along with fellow suffragists Lucretia Mott , Susan B . Anthony , Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul . Additionally , Dr . Martin Luther King , Jr ., Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt will be featured on the back of the redesigned $ 5 note .
Lew ’ s announcement launched a national discussion on the role of imagery on currency . The practical role of artistic currency design is counterfeit prevention , but it also carries a deeper meaning . To be featured on currency is among the nation ’ s highest honors . Both the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the US Mint embrace the mission to convey American values and principles through currency .
Previous issues of paper money have focused on themes such as industry and freedom , while the next set will be designed around the theme of democracy . The US Mint also considers American coinage to be “ exquisite encapsulations of America ’ s ideals ” and takes pride in its numismatic designs that are meant to depict American history and culture .
The Treasury ’ s latest redesign will acknowledge for the first time on paper money the contributions of Black and women ’ s rights activists in advancing American democracy . There is a longer tradition of honoring such leaders through the creation of commemorative coins , medals and medallions .
Positive representation of free Black people on commemorative currency is one of the earliest forms of public recognition of Black excellence , contribution and value . Enshrined in law , commemorative currency represents indelible milestones in the centuries-long struggle of Black people to achieve equality and justice . Commemorative legislation and currency help to accurately document the Black experience in the United States .
The anti-slavery tokens , commemorative coins , concept coins , bronze medals , Presidential bronze medals and gold medallions featured in the Museum ’ s new exhibit , “ For the Love of Money : Blacks on US Currency ,” celebrate Black icons , seminal historic events and institutions which have shaped Black history and significantly influenced American history . They represent a Black history timeline that spans from the arrival of Africans at Jamestown , VA , and participation of Black Patriots in the Revolutionary War , to over a century of Black historical achievement from Post- Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Era and the election and re-election of the first Black President .
“ For the Love of Money ” honors barrier-breaking Black athletes , entertainers , civil rights leaders , military leaders and politicians , and it features the historic contributions of several prominent Black women .
The following images represent a selection of objects from this exhibit , which will be on loan to the Museum of American Finance from the Museum of UnCut Funk through January 2018 .
Am I Not a Woman and a Sister 1838 Anti-Slavery Token
Manufacturer : In 1837 , the American Anti-Slavery Society commissioned Gibbs , Gardner and Company of Belleville , NJ , to produce anti-slavery tokens .
American copper hard times tokens were privately minted and used by merchants to make change during a recessionary period in the United States . The design of the US anti-slavery hard times token was inspired by British ceramic medallions produced by abolitionist Josiah Wedgwood . These anti-slavery medallions made their way to the United States as a gift from Wedgwood to Benjamin Franklin , then president of the Society for the Abolition of Slavery . This imagery was also used on British anti-slavery tokens .
Most American anti-slavery tokens differed from their British counterparts in featuring a chained African female slave . Female imagery may have been selected due to the involvement of women in the abolitionist movement and the similarities to their fight for women ’ s rights .
20 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Winter 2017 | www . MoAF . org