Thursday, 10 January 2013



Immediate release: Contact Zita 07711861660

Best selling authors such as Zadie Smith, Malorie Blackman and Andrea Levy, playwright Kwame Kwei Armah, Civil Rights icon Rev Jesse Jackson,  Trade Union leaders Christine Blower, Mark Serwotka and politicians including Diane Abbott, David Lammy and Stephen Twigg have all signed an open letter to the Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove, calling upon him to rethink his plans to scrap Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano from the National Curriculum.

Gove has stated that he wants children to learn ‘traditional’ figures such as Winston Churchill and Oliver Cromwell, and that Equiano and Seacole can be options.

Simon Woolley stated:

‘Dumping Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano, denies children of our rich diversity of key historical figures. It is also seen by some as the whitewashing of British history.’

Civil Rights Campaigner Rev Jesse Jackson stated:

'A nation’s history must be told by all its people for the benefit of everyone. Failure to do so invariably ends up talking about the exploits of white men.’

Zita Holbourne, National Co-Chair BARAC UK stated:

'The achievements of figures such as Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano in the face of prejudice are to be celebrated so that they inspire generations to come.  The broad range of people opposing Gove's proposal demonstrate the strength of our multicultural society at its best.

Patrick Vernon stated:

‘After launching the successful campaign in 2003 where Mary Seacole was voted the Greatest Black Briton by the public, Michael Grove, Secretary State for Education now wants to remove her from the National Curriculum along with Olaudah Equiano. This gives a clear message to all children and parents in Britain that we do no have a pluralist or multicultural society and thus equality of opportunity is only the preserved for the rich and privileged. Is this history we want to teach and shape future leaders in 21st century Britain?’

Juliet Alexander, broadcaster, lecturer and trustee of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal, stated:

‘To exclude Mary Seacole from the national curriculum would be to
remove a vital and important part of  the UK's rich heritage of Black, female activism and to condemn future generations to a poor and distorted history of the UK. The unprecedented response to the OBV petition and public eagerness to fund a statue for Mary, shows the UK's continuing fascination with the fighting spirit of historical heroines like Mary Seacole.’

Notes to the editor:

Open letter to Rt Michael Gove MP
Dear Michael Gove

Remember that glorious summer evening when Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford all won Olympic gold medals? It encapsulated multicultural Britain at its very best.

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, is  considering removing two Black great Britons - Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano - from the schools curriculum.

You have said Mr Gove 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 children from all backgrounds 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 calling for Seacole not to be removed from the national curriculum. Seacole and Equiano are part of all our histories.

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

Rev Jesse Jackson Snr
Zadie Smith, Author
Andrea Levy, Author
Pauline Melville, Author
Malorie Blackman, Author
Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE,  Playwright
Dr Rob Berkley, Head of Runnymede
Prof Gus John, Educationalist
Greg Jenner, Horrible Histories
Verna Wilkins, Author
Diane Abbott MP
David Lammy MP
Stephen Twigg MP, Shadow Education Secretary
Michael Rosen, Writer and Broadcaster
Paul Reid, Head of Black Cultural Archives
Steve Martin, Historian
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of Association of Lecturers and Teachers
Lord Herman Ouseley
Lord Victor Adebowale CBE
Baroness Lola Young
Bonnie Greer OBE
Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT
Lord Herman Ouseley
Garth Crooks, Former Spurs international
Dr Jacqueline Sanchez Taylor, University of Leicester
Professor Julia O'Connell Davidson, Professor of Sociology, University of Nottingham
Gloria Mills CBE, Unison
John McDonnell MP
Baroness Kishwer Falkner
Bonnie Greer OBE
Kate Green MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Margaret Busby OBE,  Publisher
Simon Woolley, Operation Black Vote
Patrick Vernon OBE, founder of 100 Great Black Britons
Prof Elizabeth Anionwu CBE & FRCN
Alex Pascal
Zita Holbourne, National Co-chair BARAC UK & PCS NEC
Khi Rafe, Community Advocate
Lester Holloway, Lib Dem Race Equality Taskforce
Pav Akhtar, Director UK Black Pride
Amarjite Singh – CWU
Kingsley Abrams, Unite
Sally Hunt, General Secretary UCU
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary of ATL
Lee Jasper,  National Co-Chair BARAC UK
George Ruddock, CEO The Voice
Aaron Kieley, NUS Black Students Officer
Jak Beula, Nubian Jak
Maggie Gee, OBE FRSL
George Galloway MP
Freddie Brown, Prospect
Mohammad Taj, Unite
Colette Corkhurst, Equality Officer Unite
Michelle Codrington-Rogers, NASUWT BME Committee
Professor Gargi Bhattacharyya, UCU
Caryl Phillips, Author
Verna Wilkins,  Children's Author
Jeannette Arnold OBE AM
Baroness Lola Young OBE
Alex Pascall OBE
Luke Daniels, Caribbean Labour Solidarity
Roger McKenzie OBE, UNISON
Aminatta Forna, Author
Stephen Bourne, Author and Historian
Tony Warner, Black Historical Walks


Zita Holbourne & Lee Jasper
Co-founders/ National Co-Chairs
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC UK)