The 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.