U.S. dollar bank notes are seen in a bank in Budapest
$100 US dollar bank notes REUTERS

Former slave Harriet Tubman will replace the late US president Andrew Jackson on the $20 bank note, a Treasury official has said. She will become not only the first woman on a US paper currency but also the first African-American to appear on a US currency.

The US Secretary of Treasury, Jacob Lew who made the decision earlier, is expected to make the announcement later on 20 April. The 19th century abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railway, will replace the US seventh president.

Lew is also set to announce other changes being proposed to the $5, $10 and $20 bills. The face change to Tubman however is unlikely to take place anytime soon. According to CNN, the soonest, there is a new $20 bill will be in 2030. There is no immediate information on when Tubman will appear on the $20 bill.

The decision to remove first Treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill however has been dropped due to popular opposition, AFP reports. According to the US Magazine, Lew came under fire for suggesting that Hamilton's face may be entirely replaced. Critics claimed that Hamilton held particular significance in the US banking system, crediting him for helping to create the modern US financial system.

Following the backlash over his initial proposal, Lew told Politico: "There are a number of options of how we can resolve this. We're not taking Alexander Hamilton off our currency. He's one of my heroes. He will be fully honoured."

The changes follow a review that saw opinions collected from around the country on the proposed redesign of the $10 note. The note was scheduled for redesign in 2020. Lew is also expected to announce that leaders of the movement to give women the right to vote will be on the back of the $10 bill while Hamilton will continue to remain the face of the bill.

Groups like Women on 20s had campaigned to have a woman on a banknote by 2020 to mark the 100th anniversary of American women gaining the right to vote. In a 10-week poll conducted by the group in 2015, Tubman beat Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and others by taking 33.6% of the 352,431 votes cast in the final round of the poll.

They had indicated their unhappiness over initial plans to have a woman share the $10 note with Hamilton, after it was decided that he will not be dropped. The $20 bill was not scheduled to be reviewed until 2030. Women on 20s said on 20 April that while the choice of Tubman was an "exciting one", the change needs to be done earlier.

"What was to be a celebration of female American heroes for our 100th anniversary of inclusion in the democracy cannot be postponed. It's time to get the party started honouring women on the new $10 and new $20 in time for 2020," Barbara Ortiz Howard, the founder of Women on 20s said.

"In recent days, reliable sources were telling us we wouldn't see the redesigned $20 until 2030. Assuming this is true, we see today's announcement as only a vague commitment and a continuation of the now familiar message that women have to settle for less and wait for their fair share," Women on 20s Executive Director Susan Ades Stone said in a statement.

One person noted on twitter that a black slave was replacing a white slave owner on the US currency. "What a time to be alive," he added.

Even Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined in the debate, welcoming the news. "A woman, a leader, and a freedom fighter. I can't think of a better choice for the $20 bill than Harriet Tubman," she said.