150th anniversary of Arthur Wharton's birth

08 Nov 2015 / News

28th October 2015 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Wharton, the world`s first black professional footballer.

Arthur`s achievements and story have been catalysts for the promotion of racial harmony and sporting opportunity. After being largely forgotten for over half a century since his death in 1930, his memory has been revived in more recent years. In 1997 his unmarked grave was given a headstone after a campaign led by Football Unites Racism Divides and supported by the PFA (Professional Footballers Association).

FURD also ran the Arthur Wharton Heritage Project from 2011-2013, which teamed film makers, poets and dramatists with schools in South Yorkshire to delve deeper into the extraordinary life of Arthur - including his life outside of sport which involved working as a coal miner and pub landlord. The project culminated in the production of a package of educational resources including a documentary film, comic book, exhibition and Powerpoint lesson plans. It also involved the creation of the Arthur Wharton Archive, part of FURD`s Resources and Information Centre at the U-Mix Centre in Sheffield.

Also, in 2014 a 16ft statue of Arthur was unveiled at the FA's national football centre in Burton, after a campaign started by Darlington artist Shaun Campbell.

In 2003 he was inducted into the English football Hall of Fame due to his achievements. He also has his own statue in the FIFA headquarters which was presented to Sepp Blatter in 2012.

Although best remembered as an eccentric goalkeeper, Arthur was also known for his sporting abilities in other disciplines including cricket and athletics. In 1886 he became the first sprinter to run 100 yards in 10 seconds and won the Prince Hassan Cup at the AAA championship. He also played cricket for Greasbrough and Stalybridge cricket clubs.

Arguably his greatest achievement in football came when he was spotted by Preston North End and was part of the team that reached the FA Cup semi-finals in 1886-87. However he left Preston the same year they won the double in 1988-1989 to concentrate on his running.

After a short break from the game he signed for Rotherham Town and later Sheffield United. He made three appearances for United, making him the first mixed race footballer to play in the top flight.

His remarkable story, which is having an impact on the game over a hundred years on, has become a valuable tool for challenging racism and raising awareness of the history of the black presence in this country.

See the link below to the Arthur Wharton Story website for more about our educational resources.