Introduction and Table of Media Literacy ActivitiesDefining Critical Media Literacy1. Foundations of the United States Political SystemDemocracy in Social Media Policies and Community StandardsThe Internet as a Public Utility21st Century Women STEM InnovatorsMedia Coverage of the RoyalsRepresentations of Native Americans on Film and in Local History Publications2. The Development of United States GovernmentPromoting a Declaration of Independence on Social MediaMarketing and Regulating Self-Driving CarsRepresentations of and Racism Toward Black Americans in the MediaPolitical Debates Through Songs from Hamilton: An American MusicalTweeting the Bill of Rights3. Institutions of United States GovernmentHollywood Movies About the Branches of GovernmentWriting an Impeachment Press ReleaseHow Members of Congress Use Social MediaPolitical Impacts of Public Opinion PollsDesigning a Website for a New Political Party4. The Rights and Responsibilities of CitizensImmigration in the NewsPortrayals of Immigrants in Television and FilmEvaluating Information About COVID-19Women Political Leaders in the MediaMedia Use by Advocacy Organizations and Special Interest GroupsDigital Games for Civic EngagementSocial Media and the ElectionsMedia Spin in the Coverage of Political DebatesCelebrities' Influence on PoliticsPolitical Activism Through Social MediaRecruiting Workers for Public Sector JobsImages of Teachers and TeachingTransgender Representation in the MediaMedia Framing of the Events of January 6, 2021Music as Protest ArtPACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media5. The Constitution, Amendments and Supreme Court DecisionsMedia For and Against ProhibitionThe Equal Rights Amendment on Social MediaNews Stories and Advertisements from the Civil WarRepresentations of Gender and Race on CurrencyTweeting For and Against the Equality ActReading Supreme Court Dissents AloudDebating Cameras in the Courtroom6. The Structure of State and Local GovernmentNative American Mascots and LogosWriting a Constitution for the InternetMilitary Recruitment and the MediaYour Privacy on Social MediaState Government Use of Media During the COVID-19 PandemicGendered Language in Media Coverage of Women in PoliticsEnvironmental Campaigns Using Social MediaTrusted Messengers, the Media, and the PandemicCampaigning for Political Office on Social MediaAdvertising the Lottery Online and In PrintLocal Government and Social Media7. Freedom of the Press and News/Media LiteracyPress Freedom in the United States and the WorldThe News from All SidesInvestigative Journalism and Social ChangeNews Photographs & Newspaper DesignUncovering Reporters' PerspectivesRecommendation Algorithms on Social Media PlatformsDetecting Fake NewsConducting Critical Visual AnalysisMemes and TikToks as Political Cartoons

Representations of Gender and Race on Currency

The proposal to include Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill and Maya Angelou and Sally Ride on quarters opens an important topic for critical media analysis.

Given their constant use, the images on banknotes and coins become part of everyone's accepted stock of knowledge. We take for granted that George Washington looked like just he appears on the $1 bill, Alexander Hamilton like he does on the $10 bill, and so on. At the same time, the vast majority of images on U.S. money have been of White men, conveying a message that women and people of color are less deserving of the honor of currency recognition.

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The history of women and people of color on currency are largely untold stories. Since World War I, women have appeared only on coins, namely Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, and Helen Keller. Martha Washington appeared on $1 silver certificates in 1886 and Pocahontas on the $20 bill in the 1860s. Booker T. Washington was the first African American on a coin in 1946; Jackie Robinson, Duke Ellington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and the Tuskegee Airmen, among others have appeared since then. A Native American figure appeared on the Indian Head penny, but the model was a liberty lady wearing an Native American head-dress; only a few million Buffalo nickels were minted in the early 20th century.

In these activities, you will analyze how women and people of color have been displayed on currency before proposing new images that suggest their importance and impact on American society and culture.

Activity 1: Examine the Images of Women and People of Color on Currency

Activity 2: Campaign for Changes in the Images on Currency

Activity 3: Design Images for Digital Currency

Digital currency is emerging as a means of exchange around the world. For example, early in 2021, China began testing in cities its own homegrown digital currency, the Electronic Chinese Yuan (New York Times, March 1, 2021).

federal reserves app screenshot
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago App Screenshot

Additional Resources

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Analyze the Constitutional issues that caused the Civil War and led to the eventual expansion of the power of the federal government and individual civil rights. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T5.3]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Digital Citizen
      • 2c: Students demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3a: Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Ethics and Laws (CAS.b)
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7