Archbishop Sentamu backs Mary Seacole

John-Sentamu_1742060cArchbishop John Sentamu has called for people to continue to remember Mary Seacole in his Sun on Sunday Sermon column today.

The pleas from Church of England’s second-in-command comes as the petition to reinstate Mary Seacole and Olaudah Equiano to the schools curriculum exceeded 25,000 signatures.

In today’s column the Archbishop of York says:

“There has been a lot written recently about nursing care, and controversy continues – even over nurses from 160 years ago.

The name of Florence Nightingale has long been part of this country’s proud nursing history; and in recent years we have also had the privilege of learning about another intrepid and venturesome nurse who came some distance to serve the wounded and suffering soldiers of the Crimea.

This was Mary Seacole, who travelled to London from Jamaica to volunteer as a nurse. When she was not taken on as part of the official nursing group, she went on to raise her own funds to take her out to the battlefield.

Last week I spoke of the wise men, setting off on an adventure that changed their lives. Mary Seacole was another brave, enterprising person who was willing to take risks in order to offer her skills of care and healing. Let us continue to give thanks for those who hear the call of adventure and share their gifts with us all.”

Last week a number of celebrities and public figures – including civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson Snr, author Zadie Smith and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah signed an open letter to education secretary Michael Gove asking him to rethink plans to axe the historical figures from school textbooks. Singer Beverley Knight, actor Adrian Lester, and comedienne Angie le Mar have tweeted support for the campaign.

Gove’s email inbox will be bursting as a result of the petition, hosted by change.org, which sends Gove an e-notification every time the petition is signed.

voice-fpThe Voice newspaper ran a front page headlined “Erased from History” last Thursday, adding pressure on the government to think again, and Baroness Floella Benjamin has spoken to education minister David Laws about the issue.

My opinion column in The Guardian newspaper last week attracted 417 comments in the online thread with many readers scathing of the government’s attempt to eradicate not just black British history but also ‘social history’ as they seek to focus on the likes of Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill.

Labour MP David Lammy criticised the move to axe Mary Seacole in an interview on Premier Christian Radio while his colleague Diane Abbott, writing in her Gleaner column, said:

It is sad to think that this Government is unwilling to accept the important role that people of colour have played in the history of Britain. Furthermore, they seem blind to how much shared history Britain has with former colonies like Jamaica. And it does not seem to have occurred to them how offensive many people (and not just Britons of Jamaican origin) would find the decision.”

By Lester Holloway @brolezholloway

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