‘Football racists at Euro 2020 inspired my children’s book about Black history’

Picture of a black woman
Picture of a black woman
Sally Penni has written Where Are You From? to educate youngsters about racism after seeing horrific abuse targeted at Marcus Rashford after the Euro 2020 final

The racist abuse of English football players has inspired a mum to write her own children’s book celebrating our black history.

As we mark Black History Month, Sally Penni hopes her book can educate children about racism following the abuse directed at England players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after they missed penalties during the Euro 2020 final.

Barrister Sally lives less than a mile away from the Rashford mural in Withington, Manchester, which became a colourful wall of tributes after it was defaced. Rashford, 23, features in Sally’s new book called Where Are You From?, a celebration of 31 figures from black British history, one for each day of October.

Sally, 42, says: “The idea behind the book is that parents can use it to expand on what their children learn in school during Black History Month, reading about one historical figure each night of October. The book also gives schools a helping hand with widening the scope of their teaching.”

The mother of three, who was appointed an MBE for services to diversity in the workplace, social mobility and law last year, published her first children’s book with her daughter Maddie, seven, over lockdown. Sally says: “What happened after the Euro final absolutely appalled me and that was my inspiration behind writing the book. I thought, ‘Rather than moaning about racism I should do something about it’.

“I want my children and others to have a better understanding of what black people have contributed.”

Not all the people in the book are black but they all fought discrimination. She explains: “The book explains why black history is everyone’s history. And while it is a history lesson, I want to show that racism and prejudice still exist.

“Racism cannot be consigned to the history books, with the overt racism suffered recently by Rashford, Sancho, and Saka as just one high profile example. bI want children to realise that racism and prejudice are not just features of America’s and South Africa’s past.”

“I hope the book will be a catalyst to talking about how racism still plays a significant part in black people’s experiences of living in the UK.”

Figures in the book include the white female workers in the mills of Rochdale, Gtr Manchester, who supported the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War from 1861 to 1865 and refused to handle slave grown cotton. Sally says they are “among my own black history heroes”.

– Sally Penni’s book Where Are You From? is available for £12.99 on Amazon