A cross-party group of MPs have backed a campaign for Mary Seacole to become the first black person featured on the new £50 note.
The Bank of England recently announced that the “more secure” polymer currency will be rolled out in 2020.
Amid speculation surrounding who will feature on the £50, Labour MP Wes Streeting suggested the pioneering British-Jamaican nurse.
On Wednesday Streeting, MP for Ilford North in Essex, announced on Twitter that he had written to Bank of England’s governor Mark Carney.
He tweeted: “As #BHM draws to a close, a cross-party group of MPs have written to @bankofengland Governor Mark Carney urging him to put Mary Seacole on the new £50 note.”
The letter has been signed by dozens of other MPs.
Of Seacole’s life achievements, Streeting writes in the letter: “Her selfless persistence and interest in helping the sick and wounded, her entrepreneurial spirit and her perseverance in the face of racial discrimination against both black people and those of mixed race in the 19th century highlight precisely why she was voted the greatest black Briton.”
Lambeth and Southwark London Assembly member, Florence Eshalomi, also wrote a letter to the Bank of England today, she announced on Twitter.
“The recent announcement from the Bank of England announcing a redesign of the £50 note is the ideal and indeed historical time for the UK to pay recognition to the contributions of black women in the UK. I believe that this honour should bestowed upon Mary Seacole,” she said.
Shortly after the announcement of the new £50 note, founder of the 100 Great Black Britons list Patrick Vernon OBE launched a petition on change.org calling for Seacole to be featured on it. It currently has more than 120,000 signatures.
He told HuffPost UK: “In 2003, 100 Great Black Britons was launched and Mary Seacole, the Crimean nurse, was voted the Greatest Black Briton of all time. The original campaign was in response to the BBC 100 Great Britons campaign in 2002 where the public voted for Winston Churchill.
“The 100 Great Black Britons was inspired by the non-existence of any one of African descent on the BBC campaign – despite the fact there has been a black presence in the British Isles for over 1,000 years. Freddie Mercury was the only person of colour on the original BBC list.
“There is a significant gap in how Black Britain is part of the national narrative and the marginalisation of Black History Month. The recent Windrush Scandal further highlights the need for public education on the black presence from Roman times to post-war migration.”
He added: “Placing Mary Seacole on the new £50 note would be one way of redressing these issues. This would be a fitting tribute to her contribution to the nursing and caring profession, as well as a historical role model for women and people from African, Caribbean and other minority ethnic communities in Britain.”
Trevor Sterling, Mary Seacole Trust Chair, told HuffPost: “Mary is not only a reflection of our great British history, but presents as a window of optimism for the younger generation. If there has ever been a time in our society where such values are paramount to be recognised, it is now. We commend Patrick Vernon for once again championing Mary Seacole and urge the public for their support in signing his petition.”
He said the production of the new note offers an opportunity to “put down another marker to demonstrate that we believe in a caring, compassionate and diverse society”.
″The Bank’s announcement has created much discussion and debate. This is understandable given the number of appropriate candidates worthy of featuring. We believe that any person who features should fundamentally reflect the diverse nature of British society and broadly be accepted as having made an important contribution to society and/or its culture,” Sterling added.
“In this regard, there can be no better example than Mary Seacole who was forgotten for nearly one hundred years. It is only right that she be acknowledged in this way, her compassion and values are as relevant today as they ever were. Mary deserves her place in British history.”
On the Bank of England’s website, it states that bank note characters “[allow] us to celebrate people who have shaped UK society through their thought innovation, leadership or values”.
“We want the characters who make it onto our banknotes to come from different backgrounds and fields. When selecting a new character, we take into account who has featured on notes in the past. This means that our choices can reflect the diversity of UK society,” the website further reads.