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BAME significant figures considered to be minted on British notes and coins

Black, Asian and minority ethnic figures (BAME) are set to feature on British notes and coins for the first time.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is considering requesting a campaign group for legal tender to be more inclusive. Specifically, the idea involves asking the Royal Mint to come up with new designs honouring BAME figures.

Military nurse Mary Seacole and spy Noor Inayat Khan are being considered, after that the Minister, already earlier at the beginning of the month, asked the Royal Mint Advisory Committee (RMAC) to pursue recognition of individuals from the BAME communities, as in the case of minting a coin to commemorate India’s independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.

A coin in CHAD representing Martin Luther King - 200 Francs 1970. Image credit Numismatics International

The Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole is also being considered to be minted in a coin. She was born in the Caribbean to a Scottish father and a Jamaican mother, but at the beginning of the outbreak of the Crimean War, she travelled to England hoping to join Florence Nightingale’s team of nurses. Unfortunately, she was turned down, but then she travelled to Crimea and established the “British Hotel” – so that the soldiers could rest and enjoy a good and refreshing meal before going back to the war.

Even though a coin has not been issued in her name yet, however, in May, a community hospital was named after the pioneering nurse.

BAME figures such as Walter Tull, the British Army’s first black officer, have been featured on commemorative coins in the past.

The former Conservative parliamentary candidate Zehra Zaidi is currently leading the Banknotes of Colour campaign. She says no non-white person has ever been featured on British currency, even though members of the BAME communities have made a profound contribution” and that the committee should consider recognizing it on the UK’s coinage.

Rishi Sunak is hoping to issue coins with black and ethnic minority people on them. Image Credit: Simon Walker HM Treasury/The Telegraph

“But commemorative coins are not the same as legal tender because legal tender acts as a passport, an ambassador,” says Ms Zaidi.

“Who we have on our legal tender, our notes and our coins builds into a narrative of who we think we are as a nation,” she told to BBC News.

“People from all backgrounds helped build Britain,” she added.

BAME people who have served the nation – such as military figures and nurses – have been put forward for the proposed set of coins.

Two years ago, Ms Zaidi already started a petition for the British World War Two secret agent Noor Inayat Khan, who was also a descendant of Indian royalty, to be featured on a coin, but the campaign fell on deaf ears.

“She was the first female radio operator to be sent to enemy-occupied France,” said Ms Zaidi.

“She was one of only four women in history to receive the George Cross.”

“We must tell the story of inclusive representation as it matters for cohesion and it matters in the narrative of who we are as a nation.”


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