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Harriet Tubman to go on $20 bill; Hamilton to stay on $10

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sits down with CBS News' Julianna Goldman and discusses how, if at all, the popularity of the Hamilton musical impacted the Treasury's decision to keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill
Treasury secretary discusses Hamilton the musical's impact on $20 bill change 01:05

A female face will soon grace the $20 bill, keeping U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in a letter Wednesday.

The historical woman chosen to go on the bill: Harriet Tubman, the African-American abolitionist most famous for her role in helping slaves escape through the "Underground Railroad."

Tubman, a former slave, will be replacing Andrew Jackson, the nation's seventh president and a former slave owner.

Jackson's image will remain on the $20 bill on the reverse side, which will also showcase the White House.

Of the decision to put Tubman on the bank note, Lew said it was "driven by thousands of responses we received from Americans young and old."

"You shared your thoughts about her life and her works and how they changed our nation and represented our most cherished values," Lew wrote in his letter to the American people, posted to the blogging site Medium. "Her incredible story of courage and commitment to equality embodies the ideals of democracy that our nation celebrates and we will continue to value her legacy by honoring her on our currency."

The Treasury secretary mentioned that other "hundreds" of historical females were floated for the redesign efforts. And even presidential contenders weighed in on candidates for the new bill.

During September's second Republican primary debate, those running for the GOP nomination were asked what woman they would nominate for a spot on U.S. currency. Some, like Sens. Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, named common candidates: Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks. Others, like neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Donald Trump, named more unconventional contenders: Carson named his mother, while Trump suggested "my daughter Ivanka." Trump later backtracked and gave a nod to Rosa Parks instead.

Carson, who is now a Trump campaign surrogate, criticized the decision to put Tubman on the $20 bill on Wednesday.

Slaves traveled along the Underground Railroad in this painting c. 1893 in the Cincinnati Art Museum by Charles T. Webber. Library of Congress

"I love Harriet Tubman. I love what she did. But we can find another way to honor her," the former presidential candidate told Fox Business. Then, he suggested: "Maybe a $2 bill."

Several celebrities reacted to the news Wednesday on social media. Actress Bette Midler had a particularly cheeky response:

The original plan for getting a female face on U.S. currency has changed drastically in recent months.

The agency was initially expected to announce which woman would be appearing on the $10 bill by the end of last year -- a move that drew fierce backlash in part because of Alexander Hamilton's recent popularity.

Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, enjoyed a resurgence as a result of the hugely successful hip hop musical based on his life.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the Grammy-winning Hamilton musical, teased the announcement in a recent tweet:

CBS News' Julianna Goldman asked Lew in an interview Wednesday about the role the musical played in putting a woman on the face of the $20. "I wouldn't exaggerate it," Lew said, adding "I do give credit to Lin-Manuel Miranda, the crew of Hamilton, for bringing American history to life."

He also said that Treasury had "expanded the view of what we were doing you know, right around, a little before the musical became a pop hit."

Harriet Tubman, full-length portrait, standing with hands on back of a chair. Between ca. 1860 and 1875. Library of Congress

CBS News confirmed Hamilton would remain the face of the $10 bill earlier this week. The new back side of the $10 bill will depict a scene from March 1913 when advocates demonstrated women's right to vote in front of the Treasury building. It will honor Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Susan B Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul.

Abraham Lincoln will stay on the front of the five dollar note, while the back will showcase historic events that occurred at Washington, D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial. The reverse image will feature Marian Anderson, the first African American opera singer to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera, and her 1939 performance at the Lincoln Memorial supported by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The back of the bill will also honor Dr. Martin Luther King, who gave his "I have a dream" speech at the foot of the monument.

The redesigned $5, $10, and $20 bills will be unveiled in 2020, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. The new $10 bill will go into circulation first, due to security concerns.

Lew anticipates the the first bills will come out earlier than 2030.

The Treasury is asking the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to expedite the redesign process. The Federal Reserve is ultimately responsible for deciding when the currency will go into circulation.

CBS News' Julianna Goldman contributed to this report.

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