British banknotes must feature an ethnic minority, actors demand

The Bank of England is deciding who should feature on its new plastic £50 note.

London (CNN)"Crazy Rich Asians" star Gemma Chan and David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King Jr. in "Selma," are among the 220 campaigners and actors calling for a historic figure from an ethnic minority background to feature on Britain's next banknote.

This comes as the Bank of England decides who should feature on its new plastic £50 note. In a November press conference, Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said the note would celebrate UK's scientific achievements and called for nominations that would "celebrate the diversity of UK society and highlight the contributions of its greatest citizens."
In spite of ethnic minority communities representing 14% of the British population "no one from an ethnic minority has yet featured on a banknote," campaigners wrote in the letter published in the Sunday Times.
    "We do not lack candidates, and arguably their achievements were the greater for having been made at a time when many careers and were effectively closed to them through colonial rules, racism or the legacy of slavery," the letter added.
    "Changing this would send a message that the contribution of ethnic minorities to Britain's history, culture and economy is recognized and valued."
    David Oyelowo is among those calling for a historic figure from an ethnic minority background to be on the £50 note.
    Signatories include actors Meera Syal, Adrian Lestor and Sanjeev Bhaskar, and former equalities chief Trevor Phillips.
    Nominations for the new banknote closed on December 14. British banknotes do not include fictional characters of people who are still living -- the Queen is the only exception.
    The Bank of England said it has received 174,112 nominations by the end of November and released a list of more than 800 nominees -- which include Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole, first computer programmer Ada Lovelace, Indian physicist and physiologist Jagadish Chandra Bose and Stephen Hawking.
      The announcement comes more than two years after former US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced in 2016 that Harriet Tubman would become the first black woman to grace American paper currency, and the first woman in more than 100 years.
      Current US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in January that the department has still not decided whether to have the black abolitionist hero replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.