Seven people of colour who should be on Britain's banknotes

Bethan McKernan@mck_beth
Thursday 21 April 2016 12:00
news

The new £20 note is being revealed on Thursday afternoon, and for the first time ever it will feature a British figure voted for by the public.

The Bank of England asked people to nominate 'visual artists' - and the smart money is currently on painters William Hogarth or JMW Turner to replace economist Adam Smith on the current design.

Over in the US, the Treasury Department has just announced that Harriet Tubman, the slavery abolitionist, will replace former President Andrew Jackson (a slave owner) on the next run of $20 bills. She's also the first woman to appear on a US banknote in more than 50 years.

Taking Tubman for inspiration, here are seven inspirational Britons of colour whose achievements could deserve recognition on future bank notes:

1. Olaudah Equiano - abolitionist campaigner

Equiano was taken from his native Igbo (modern day south-eastern Nigeria) as a child. After being freed, he spent 20 years working as a seafarer, merchant, and explorer before settling in London. He was a leading anti-slavery activist and his writings are regarded as "the true beginning of modern African literature".

2. Dadabhai Naoroji - social activist and first non-white MP

Naoroji was a noted intellectual and an important figure in India's independence movement. He also campaigned for Irish home rule and on poverty, serving as MP for Finsbury Central between 1892 - 1895.

3. Mary Seacole - Crimean War nurse

Seacole volunteered to help when the Crimean War broke out, but was refused. She went to Crimea anyway and set up a boarding house to care for the wounded anyway.

4. Ignatius Sancho - composer, actor, writer

Sancho is thought to be the first black Briton to ever cast a vote in a British election. He was another leading voice for abolition.

He was celebrated as a cultural icon, and when his last owner died he opened his own London coffee house, which was frequented by Georgian high society, writers and thinkers.

5. Shen Foutsong - scholar

Foutsong, a Jesuit Priest, came to Britain from China. He spoke Latin to communicate as he worked at the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

6. Sophia Duleep Singh - Suffragette

Singh was a prominent women's rights activist, described as a firebrand "harridan law breaker". She played leading roles in the Women's Social and Political Union and the Women's Tax Resistance League.

7. William Davidson - political radical

Davidson trained as a lawyer and quickly became active in campaigning for parliamentary reform and more anarchistic plans to overthrow cabinet ministers.

He was executed for conspiring against the government in 1820.

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