Harriet Tubman and Our Dying Cash Culture

Let’s not wait until 2030 to get Harriet in circulation. Make our latest symbolic makeover matter immediately on digital payment platforms.

This week, the U.S. Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman — American abolitionist, spy, and humanitarian—will be the new face of the $20 dollar bill. The internet exploded in excitement.

Then, I found out that the new Tubmans won’t go into circulation until 2030. That’s 14 years from now…when I’ll be paying for everything by phone, card, cryptocurrency, or MeowMeowBeenz. If I have a child out of wedlock this second, I will have already paid 77.78% of the child support required before I can start supporting my hypothetical child in Harriet twenties. Fast and Furious 15 will already be in post-production with a 63-year-old Vin Diesel.

I might be more of a techno-optimist than the average person, but let’s be real. As a reader on Medium, you probably already carry relatively little green cotton currency. You know the steady influx of digital and NFC mobile payment methods like Apple Pay and Venmo are already killing cash transactions from multiple angles. Andrew Jackson has been on the $20 Federal Reserve note since 1928. Harriet Tubman will break on to the note more than 100 years later and no one will even see it except drug dealers and that bodega owner down the street from me who loves yelling “CASH ONLY” every time I hand him a card.

I say, let us take action now. I’ve got no time for bureaucracy. We went through the trouble and thought to include Harriet Tubman, so let’s make it count. Let’s design Harriet Tubman “Submit Payment” CTAs on all payment apps. She can friggin’ high-five you when you make transactions. File that under “delightful user experience.”

Kicking off the thoughtstarters, here are a few ways digital shopping and payment designers can show us some Harriet Tubman action today:

1. $20 Payment Options

Asking for donations? Creating a Kickstarter with a $20 pledge level? Use a Harriet Tubman!

2. Payment Easter Eggs

Entering $20 into that text field? Harriet Tubman smiles down upon you. Entering $2000? A hundred Harriet Tubmans rain down the page in celebration.

3. Keypad Entry Shortcuts

Like the +30 second key on modern microwaves, we can make a +Harriet key the new thing. Click here to try the prototype.

Dat Tubman key doe.

4. Payment Confirmation

Give your users historical facts when they successfully complete transactions!

5. Price Ranges

How much is dinner? Roughly one Tubman!

Got more ideas? Feel free to create and share them and I’ll try to add to this article, or don’t and just enjoy this funny tweet I found.