Open letter to Rt Michael Gove MP



Dear Rt Michael Gove MP

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


Archived Comments

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We at TRENHORNE FILMS join force with all SIGNATURES on behalf of MARY SEACOLE to have her reinstated to the National Curriculum

I have to admit that this is

I have to admit that this is the first I've heard of either of them, so clearly they weren't part of history back in the 1970s.

At least Gove has had the effect of enlightening those of us who might have continued to not know this bit of British history. Perhaps he need to propose to remove a few more parts of the curriculum in the hope that someone will raise the profile.

Mary Seacole

It betrays the serious purpose of the right wing agenda in education,to deny young people the knowledge of the past where it reveals the long and rich history of the fight for social justice and human rights in this country, facts that might inspire us to challenge the moral authority of the status quo today.

Erasing heroes from the national History Curriculum

My husband's ancestor was in fact only a very small part of the abolition of the slave trade act(because he was a MP) It took the Hollywood film Amazing Grace to show some of the key characters of the time; which of course included Equiano, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Buxton and other working class heroes, such as the Quakers. How pleased i am to hear about Mary Seacole now; No surprise in seeing politicans rewite History for their own idealogical ends.

Crucial Historical Importance

This ludicrous ideology that dispenses with these important people is occluded, wrong and unhealthy for historical and national debate, all of which should engage with didactic classroom teaching.

Seacole and Equiano are two pioneering Great Britons

I read about Equiano just a few days ago in a book by David Miles, the Tribes of Britain. And Mary Seacole I only found out about a couple of years ago, from my kids, when they both learned about her in History at school. When I was at school (late 70's), Florence Nightingale was the only nurse at Crimea to rate a mention.In the same David Miles book, ironically Seacole's services were apparently almost forgotten about by the British establishment right after the Crimean war when, as she faced bankruptcy, a letter to the Times newspaper called to arms those who she had helped during the Crimean War and a festival of music ended up being held in her honour in Kennington. Honour being the key word. The "Right Honourable" Michael Gove MP could stand to improve his own education in history a bit more, before making any important decisions regarding the schools curriculum again.

Saving Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano

I am a student at Birkbeck University. I studied Olaudah Equiano in my first year an amazing story. Mary Seacole i discovered via a TV documentary. Unfortunately I am not surprised that they are trying to remove these two remarkable histories from the curriculum. And it is not surprising that the richest part of my learning occured after I left school. I believe that we need to reconsider whether schools should become something we did when we knew no better.
Maybe its time we moved out of the classroom and away from small thinking and tick boxes.
Online learning will come hopefully sooner rather then later. Time to open the door and let the light in. All our todays are a result of our yesterdays.

Keep Black Heroine on the National Curriculum

It is unacceptable to remove the name of Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. As a Black Woman myself, the story of the life and work of Mary Seacole greatly inspired me and motivated me to win the Department of Health’s Mary Seacole Nursing Leadership Award in 1999. As a DH Mary Seacole Scholar, lessons from her innovative and proactive approaches to nursing development led me to establish both Stroke Action UK and Stroke Action Nigeria. I have no doubt in my mind that the lives of many more Britons ‘BLACK and WHITE’ have been impacted as a consequence of the work and life of Mary Seacole.
Please sign this petition to keep Mary Seacole in the National Curriculum, and, I urge you to write a letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, to keep Mary Seacole in the School Curriculum. I have done the same.
Thank you Great AMBASSADOR.
Kind regards
Rita Melifonwu
DH Mary Seacole Scholar
CEO Stroke Action UK and Stroke Action Nigeria

Please re-enstate Mary Seacole

Britain must not forget Mary Seacole because she was a black woman. Remember that she took the bullet during her care for British Soldiers. Her name must live on for others to copy in the future.

Tory backlash masquerading as reform

It is well-known by history teachers that the curriculum is in need of reform. The efforts of the previous generation - on the one hand to get children "doing" history, and on the other to inform them of the struggles of the many for a fairer society - have left us with a syllabus that tries to pack too much in. History too often becomes a sampling of numerous unrelated episodes and exercises. The sense of a coherent, continuing story - without which none of it makes much sense - is lost.

Cue the Tory backlash. Kids need a narrative? What a wonderful chance for Gove and his cronies to shove their tired, chauvinistic tripe under their noses. How inspired the nation's children will be by the endless list of barbarous monarchs and their bloody wars of conquest. So it's out with John Ball's sermon at Blackheath, Kett's Oak, the Putney debates, Equiano's Interesting Narrative, Feargus O'Connor's Northern Star, Annie Besant and the matchgirls. And how ironic that Mary Seacole - the darling of the very Empire that they extol - should be for the chop too.

They cannot be allowed to get away with it.

Mary Seacole

Unfortunately the inept Michael Gove is the very sort of person who tried desperately to marginalise Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano originally. Narrow minded and Imperialist. London is a gloriously multi-cultural city which is enriched at every level, not by narrow minded bigots of the Gove ilk, but by the multicultural population. As such these and many others should be part of our young people's education and experience. How better to inspire and enthuse children of all backgrounds than by showing that people of all backgrounds, cultures and societies can have a profound effect upon the history and future of this wonderful country.

Mary Seacole /Olaudah Equiano

British history will be considered incomplete, mediocre, with the omission of these two great black historian's do the right thing.

Mary Seacole

British history will be incomplete with the omission of this truly remarkable lady.


Good day Rt Hon Michael Gove MP,
Please reconsider the removal of this heroine from the National Educational Currriculum.
Mrs Mary Seocole is both a herione and a role model for many - those who may want to make decisions about becomming a doctor a nurse and would be such a loss for many girls as they consider career options and future vocations. Indeed the history of our medical and nursing institution. Indeed history of the develoopment of our National Health Service could not be adequately taught without knowledge of the influence of Mary Seacole.

Mary Seacole

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
When there are ethnic unrest in London, there are comments such as these people from the ethnic background do not have role models. Yet there are outstanding role models such as Mary Seacole,
David Lammy, Diana Abbott, Alex Pascall, Claudia Jones, to name but a few. If they are not taught in schools along side the others, how will our children know about these brave and courageous people? London is a multi-cultural city and black history should be part of the National Curriculum. Children need to know that it is not one type of race that are heroes. Heroine such as Mary Seacole should not be for gotten, but should embraced with the same passion as Florence Nightingale etc
Long live the name MARY SEACOLE!