Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Takes $20 Snub In Stride | Nashville Public Radio

Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Takes $20 Snub In Stride

Apr 20, 2016

The keepers of President Andrew Jackson's home were — understandably — disappointed to hear that he will be replaced on the front of the $20 bill. Executives at the Hermitage had been lobbying the U.S. Treasury Department.

Jackson will still be on the back of the $20 bill. But Hermitage CEO Howard Kittell had hoped that the former president, known for his feistiness, might just be one of several figures who would rotate on the face of the twenty.

“I think initially we were kind of devastated about it," he says. "But at this point saying we march on, saying there are a lot of presidents who aren't on currency."

Even in his time, Jackson was a controversial figure. His popularity has had ups and downs over the centuries. Kittell says this is a low point. And he says the debate about the $20 bill has focused primarily on the negative side of his life.

"What frustrates me about this is the way Jackson has been portrayed in the public's mind," he says. "What you see continually is that he was a slave owner and that he engineered the Indian Removal Act … but it doesn't put either of those in the broader context of the time.”

Jackson's demotion makes way for abolitionist Harriet Tubman, which was a response to calls for more diversity on U.S. currency.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says it's not Jackson versus Tubman, calling them both "heroes of a nation's work in progress toward great goals."

"It is unnecessary to diminish Jackson in order to honor Tubman," Alexander said in a statement. "Jackson was the first common man to be elected president. He fought to save the Union. He defined an American era. He helped found the Democratic party. And he was a great Tennessean."

At the Hermitage, Kittell says Jackson's history will be told the same way it is now.

"No one has ever been ambivalent about Jackson. He always generated a certain amount of heat," Kittell says. "But he isn't any less important and we're not going to back away from telling the story of his life."

Still, there may be a new project on the horizon: collecting some of the old bills with Jackson's face on the front before they're no longer in circulation.