WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department will announce on Wednesday afternoon that Harriet Tubman, an African-American who ferried hundreds of slaves to freedom, will replace the slaveholding Andrew Jackson on the center of a new $20 note, according to a Treasury official, while newly popular Alexander Hamilton will remain on the face of the $10 bill.
Other depictions of women and civil rights leaders will also be part of new currency designs.
The new designs, from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, would be made public in 2020 in time for the centennial of woman’s suffrage and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. None of the bills, including a new $5 note, would reach circulation until the next decade.
It was unclear whether details of the unexpectedly sweeping changes would win over some women’s groups, who had sharply criticized Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew for reneging on his 10-month-old commitment to put a woman on the face of the $10 bill, which is the one currently in line for an anti-counterfeiting makeover.
But in the months of taking public comments on what woman he should pick, Mr. Lew evidently bowed to the Broadway-stoked popularity of the $10 bill’s current star, Alexander Hamilton.
Instead, images of women are expected to grace the back of the new bill, with Ms. Tubman taking the top spot on a redesigned $20 further into the future.
When Mr. Lew announced in June that a woman was likely to front the $10, he thought it would be a feel-good moment for the Obama administration. That was before the rap musical “Hamilton” created legions of fans for the founder who was already on the bill, not only among well-to-do patrons shelling out big bucks for tickets on Broadway but also among tens of thousands of teenagers memorizing the lyrics and obsessing over details of Hamilton’s life story.
It complicated matters for Mr. Lew when “Hamilton” and its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama this week. Mr. Miranda personally pressed Mr. Lew to keep Hamilton front and center, rallying Hamiltonians around the country.
But in advance of the announcement, a number of women took to media to say a win for the hottest founding father would be a loss for many women who pressed for someone of their sex on the bill.
“It’s yet another ‘wait your turn’ moment for American women,” the political commentator Cokie Roberts wrote Wednesday in The New York Times.
Other women were not giving up hope, given the number of bills facing a revamp.
“It may seem like we have more important things to worry about, but all of us will be watching to see if they find other opportunities,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.