Jesse Jackson backs Mary Seacole schools curriculum campaign

COLLAGE600The Times has today published a letter from US civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson and a host of celebrities, politicians and academics calling on education secretary Michael Gove to reinstate the Victorian nurse Mary Seacole back onto the schools curriculum.

The 50 public figures who signed the open letter include authors Zadie Smith and Bonnie Greer, playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, children’s author Michael Rosen and football pundit Garth Crooks.

Singer Beverley Knight and actor Adrian Lester have tweeted support for the campaign.

I was pleased to be a part of this campaign and helped to write the letter and get signatories to lend their name.

With over 5,600 members of the public signing our online petition it is clear that there is a general desire to keep Mary Seacole as part of the national curriculum.

Please see below the Times letter, and below that a full list of signatories.


Rev Jesse Jackson Snr

Zadie Smith – Author

Michael Rosen – Children’s writer and broadcaster

Garth Crooks – Broadcaster

Bonnie Greer OBE – Author and broadcaster

Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE – Playwright and presenter

Lord Herman Ouseley

Baroness Lola Young OBE

Lord Victor Adebowale CBE

Dr Rob Berkeley – Runnymede Trust

Greg Jenner – Horrible Histories

Andrea Levy – Author

Malorie Blackman OBE – Children’s author

Diane Abbott MP

David Lammy MP

Stephen Twigg MP

Baroness Kishwer Falkner

Prof Gus John – Educationalist

Cllr Lester Holloway

Simon Woolley – Operation Black Vote

Cllr Patrick Vernon – 100 Greatest Black Britons

Zita Holbourne – BARAC UK

Prof Elizabeth Anionwu CBE & FRCN – Emeritus professor of nursing

Khi Rafe – Campaigner

Pauline Melville – Author

Christine Blower – General Secretary NUT

Paul Reid – Black Cultural Archives

SI Martin – Historian

Verna Wilkins – Author

Dr Mary Bousted – General Secretary Association of Teachers and Lecturers

Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor – University of Leicester

Prof Julia O’Connell Davidson – University of Nottingham

Gloria Mills CBE – Unison

John McDonnell MP

Kate Green MP

Jeremy Corbyn MP

Margaret Busby OBE – Publisher

Alex Pascall OBE

Pav Akhtar – Director UK Black Pride

Stephen Bourne – Author and historian

Tony Warner – Black Historical Walks

Amarjite Singh – CWU

Kingsley Abrams – Unite

Sally Hunt – General Secretary UCU

Mark Serwotka – General Secretary PCS

Dr Mary Bousted – General Secretary ATL

Lee Jasper – BARAC UK

George Ruddock – The Voice

Aaron Keiley – NUS Black students officer

Jak Beula – Nubian Jak Foundation

Maggie Gee OBE FRSL

George Galloway MP

Freddie Brown – Prospect

Mohammad Taj – Unite

Colette Corkhurst – Unite

Michelle Codrington-Rogers, NASUWT BME Committee

Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya – UCU

Caryl Phillips – Author

Jennette Arnold OBE AM

Alex Pascall OBE

Luke Daniels – Caribbean Labour Solidarity

Roger McKenzie OBE – UNISON

Aminatta Forna – Author


Sir, Remember that glorious summer evening when Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all won Olympic gold medals? It

Given the nations collective celebration which included who we are and what we achieved, it is deeply disappointing that you, as the Secretary State for Education, are considering removing two Black great Britons – Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano – from the schools curriculum.

Mr Gove, you have said that you want our children to focus on traditional figures such as Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell. Seacole and Equiano should also be seen in the rich, often traumatic history of Britain as traditional figures: brave, courageous and inspiring.

After all, 80,000 people – the capacity of our Olympic stadium – came out to pay tribute to the extraordinary Seacole on her return from the Crimean War. As for Equiano, there is no doubt that the abolition of slavery would have endured many more years without his passionate Christian narrative which, at the time, shook the establishment to the core.

Today in our schools Black and white children learn about, and are moved by, the stories of both individuals. It is not political correctness to keep them in, but it is historically and culturally incorrect to remove them from our rich tapestry of history, including the struggle for women’s rights.

Even in the 1850s the famed Times reporter Sir W. H Russell said of Mary Seacole: “Let England not forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.”

That is why thousands of people signed an online petition last week calling for Seacole to be reintroduced into the national curriculum. If we ignore Seacole and Equiano, what hope is there of recognising the Black contribution to the first and second world wars or remembering the Windrush generation?

Seacole and Equiano are not just part of Black history but part of all our histories. Teaching about them should be a right not a gift.

Mr Michael Gove, for the benefit our all our children now and in the future, we call upon you to rethink your plans to remove these two great Black Britons from the National Curriculum.

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One thought on “Jesse Jackson backs Mary Seacole schools curriculum campaign

  1. Sealcole isn’t a major historical figure, and it’s quite right she is left out of a school curriculum dealing in generalities for children.. this smacks of political interference.

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