The Push to Put Harriet Tubman on the Twenty Dollar Bill

Portrait of a Successful Marketing Campaign

How Tubman Got on the $20

A Movement Spawned by Vision, Social Media & Broadway

tubman20In April of 2016, the US Treasury Department announced that it will fast track the re-design of the $20 bill and feature abolitionist Harriett Tubman bumping Andrew Jackson. How did this change come about and what can a business owner learn from it?

The Moment of Inspiration
2012 – While waiting to pay for her coffee, the founder of the Women on $20’s (W20) movement notices something is missing in her wallet. She resolves to find a way to get a woman’s portrait on paper money to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage rights in 2020.

Building a Strategy
Feb 2014 – With just a team of three and no funding, a voting platform is developed, branding is finalized, compelling statements are written and a website begins to take shape.

PR Impact #1 – Obama
Jul 2014 – President Obama reacts to a letter from a young girl who wants more women on our currency. He thinks it’s a “pretty good idea.” His comment adds credibility to the basic concept of W20.

Whose Face is Featured?
Aug-Dec 2014 – W20’s research identifies 15 American females with historical impact as potential candidates.

Cast Your Vote
Mar-Apr 2015 – Leveraging social media and public relations, a five-week primary is held to narrow the candidates from 15 to 4. Top 4 vote-getters: Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller. (Who is Wilma Mankiller?) Another five-week primary with 360,000 votes cast reveals that Tubman edges out Roosevelt as the winner.

The Final Result
May 2015 – A petition from W20 is officially submitted to the White House and Treasury Department requesting that Harriet Tubman be placed on the $20 bill. Credibility was added to the petition with these statistics:

  • 600,000 voters and 1 million votes cast
  • 2 million website sessions and 9 million website page views
  • 66.7% of website visitors were female
  • Over 24,000 Facebook “likes”
  • Note: Ohio was in the top 10 states with the most visitors

Treasury Announces Different Change
10dollarbillJun 2015 – Treasury announces that a woman will be featured on the $10 bill replacing Alexander Hamilton. While pleased with the announcement overall, W20 is dissatisfied with placement on the $10 because for several reasons:

  • The $20 is much more widely circulated than the $10
  • The alignment of celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage rights on the $20 in 2020
  • Replacement of Andrew Jackson (slave owner) on the $20 with Harriet Tubman (abolitionist) made a strong statement

PR Impact #2 – Broadway Intervenes
hamiltonSep-Dec 2015 – The Broadway musical “Hamilton” becomes a mega-hit and raises awareness and respect for Alexander Hamilton’s story and subsequently demand to keep him on the $10.

More PR Pressure
Mar 2016 – W20 takes to the media with op-eds in the New York Times, Time Magazine, CNN and Univision pressing for simultaneous re-design of the $10 and the $20. The release of #NotWillingToWait continues the pressure via social media.

Movement Realizes Result
Apr 2016 – Treasury Department announces design changes to the $20, $10 and $5 bills including Harriet Tubman as well as referencing the Suffrage and Civil Rights Movements.

Takeaways for Business Owners

  • Every movement begins with an inspiration. Have you had a “what if” moment.Build your tribe. You won’t get anywhere by yourself. Even Jesus had 12 disciples.
  • Build your tribe. You won’t get anywhere by yourself. Even Jesus had 12 disciples.Prepare for
  • Prepare for opportunity. W20 laid the ground work to take advantage of the influence of President Obama’s comments and Hamilton, the musical’s success.
  • Be persistent. When Treasury announced the re-design of the $10, W20 continued to push for Tubman on the $20.

Movements That Moved Me
I personally participate in the following list of movements: – Do something meaningful this Christmas. Go Caroling. After 5 years, this movement is in its infancy, so being persistent is critical. – Mobilizing the work world for Christ. What started out as a workplace ministry in Cincinnati has organically grown into a movement locally and nationally. – Working to heal a divided nation. Healing our racial divide is a deep seated issue for me and it starts with honest discussion. Q Commons uses events featuring national and local speakers to set up roundtable discussion on topics of importance. The next event in Cincinnati is on Oct 13. I’ll be there. Registration information.

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