Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton


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Arthur Wharton, the son of the Rev. Henry Wharton, a Wesleyan Methodist missionary from the West Indies, was born in Accra, Ghana on 28th October, 1865. Arthur was brought to England and was educated at Dr Cheyne's School in London between 1875 and 1879.

After spending time with his family in Grenada in the West Indies, Wharton returned to Britain in 1882 to train as a missionary teacher. He studied at Shoal Hill College before moving to Cleveland College in 1884.

Wharton was a very good athlete and began competing in sprint races in Darlington. Manny Harbon, a local coach, was impressed with Wharton and suggested he entered the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA) championships at Stamford Bridge. In July, 1886, he set a new world record when he ran the 100 yards in 10 seconds. He was the first black athlete to win an AAA championship.

This performance brought him to the attention of Preston North End and he joined the club later that year. Despite his tremendous speed he played in goal. In 1887 he played against West Bromwich Albion in the FA Cup semi-final but lost 3-1. Wharton played so well during this period that one football writer suggested he would win an international cap for England.

In 1889 Wharton signed for Rotherham United. As well as playing for the club he became licencee of the Albert Tavern in Rotherham. Later he ran the Plough Inn public house in the town. In September 1893 he married a local girl, Emma Lister. The couple had two daughters, Minnie and Nora.

In the late 1890s Wharton also coached Stalybridge Rovers. In 1896 he signed Herbert Chapman who was later to become a highly successful manager of Huddersfield Town and Arsenal.

After five years at Rotherham United he moved on to Sheffield United. When living in Sheffield he was employed to run the Sportsman Cottage public house in the city. Wharton had difficulty holding his place in the team and was eventually replaced by Bill Foulke. In 1895 he returned to Rotherham United where he played another 15 league games before joining Stockport County in 1901.

During this period he developed a drink problem and in 1902 he was forced to retire from football. Wharton found employment as a colliery haulage worker at the Yorkshire Main Colliery, Edlington. He joined the Miners Federation of Great Britain and took part in the 1926 General Strike.

Arthur Wharton died as a penniless alcoholic on 12th December 1930 at Springhill House Sanatorium in Doncaster. Two causes of death were recorded on his death certificate: epithelioma and syphilis.

As a goalkeeper, one of his trademarks was his 'prodigious punch'. There were always two targets (yes, even when he was sober): the ball and the opponent's head, and he'd always connect with one. A number of match reports mention the run-ins he had with forwards. Goalkeepers could handle the ball anywhere in their own half and could be shoulder-charged with or without the ball. This physicality appealed to Arthur Wharton.

Good judges say that if Wharton keeps goal for Preston North End in their English Cup tie the odds will be considerably lengthened against them. I am of the same opinion ... Is the darkie's pate too thick for it to dawn upon him that between the posts is no place for a skylark? By some it's called coolness - bosh!'

Trinidad-born Wharton had been the Amateur Athletic Association's hundred yards champion in both 1886 and 1887, as well as one of the first black professional footballers in England. However, his first team appearances were limited owing to the arrival of Willie Foulke from the Blackwell club in Derbyshire.

Foulke, who stood six feet and two inches tall, with a natural weight of thirteen stone, dominated the United goal area well into the following century, when his weight exceeded twenty stone. He played a leading part in United's success of the late 1890s as well as appearing in the English national side.

In a match between Rotherham and Sheffield Wednesday at Olive Grove I saw Wharton jump, take hold of the cross bar, catch the ball between his legs, and cause three onrushing forwards - Billy Ingham, Clinks Mumford and Micky Bennett - to fall into the net. I have never seen a similar save since and I have been watching football for over fifty years.


Arthur Wharton: the world’s first professional black footballer

Schools are now looking to extend their study of significant individuals away from many of the conventional ones. This article looks at a lesser known individual, Arthur Wharton, which could make a good choice for teachers wanting to tap into pupils&rsquo interest. Arthur Wharton was the world&rsquos first black professional footballer.

Carter G. Woodson, the founder of what has become Black History Month, stated that &lsquoIf a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.&rsquo It is vital that we reclaim the histories of forgotten black heroes to allow children to identify with them and prevent the danger of losing stories that demand to be heard. This is true of the stories of the world&rsquos earliest black football player, Arthur Wharton. However, as Peter Lee remarked we should not simply be plundering the past for usable stories. Instead we should be looking to understand and respect people from the past on their terms.

Arthur Wharton was a remarkable character. He was born in 1865 but left a war-torn Ghana in 1882 to come to Britain to train to be a missionary. However, his real talents lay as a sportsman and he was a true all-rounder.


Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton was born in Ghana in 1865, his father was half Grenadian and half Scottish, and his mother was from Ghanaian royalty. In 1882 Arthur moved to England to train as a missionary, but quickly became bored with the academic and religious life and left school to pursue a sporting career.

A talented athlete, he set a new world record for the 100 yard dash (10 seconds) at Stamford Bridge in 1886. This success gave him the opportunity to compete in professional athletics tournaments, where he was able to make a living from appearance fees. His abilities also brought him to the attention of various professional football clubs.

He was first signed as a semi professional player with Preston North End in 1886, as goalkeeper. His highpoint with Preston was to make it to the FA Cup semi finals in 1887 where they lost 3-1 to West Bromwich Albion. There was speculation at the time that Arthur was good enough to play for England, but he was never considered for the position by the FA, due in part to the racial prejudice of the time.

He turned fully professional in 1889, when he signed for Rotherham United, and in 1894, Sheffield United poached him. Unfortunately, the move was not a success he was getting older, and was competing with United’s new and younger goalkeeper, Bill “Fatty” Foulke.

Arthur’s career then drifted as he moved from club to club to try and make a living. At the same time, he started drinking heavily, and eventually retired from football in 1902. His life after retirement was not happy, and Arthur Wharton died in 1930, a penniless alcoholic who had spent the last 15 years of his life as a colliery haulage hand.

His story was uncovered in 1997 by the Sheffield United based project, “Football Unites Racism Divides”. His unmarked grave in Edlington has been given a headstone, and his picture was included in an exhibition of British Sporting Heroes at the National Portrait Gallery.

Read more about Arthur Wharton, in the Northern Echo when the statue was installed in 2014


Little Known Black History Fact: Arthur Wharton

Arthur Wharton was England&rsquos first black footballer. Born in Ghana in 1865, Wharton moved to Durham, England to study around the 1880&rsquos. He found an interest in sports, beating his competition in 100-yard sprints at Stamford Bridge, and excelling at cricket and cycling events. In 1886, he became the Amateur Athletics Association national 100 yards champion. When the footballers that called themselves &ldquoThe Invincibles&rdquo saw his talents, they immediately took him as a player.

By the 1890&rsquos, Wharton had played with the Sheffield United, Rotherham Town, Preston North End and Stockport County clubs.

Wharton held down his footballing career for 16 years. Unfortunately, he developed a drinking problem and died in a sanatorium in 1930. It wasn&rsquot until 1997 that a marker was purchased for his grave by the FURD (Football Unites, Racism Divides) organization, which is the same group that was given a grant to produce a biopic of Wharton&rsquos life.

Just recently, a statue of Wharton was dedicated to the presidents' lounge at Fifa, which is the governing body of sports in Zurich. Wharton has been recognized by the Wemble Association of Football.


"Until black history matters, black lives will never matter" - the legacy of the world's first black footballer

Shaun Campbell first heard the name Arthur Wharton thirteen years ago while giving a talk for Black History Month in Middlesbrough. He could barely believe what he was hearing that the first black professional footballer in the world made his debut for Darlington.

Campbell said: "I couldn't understand why heɽ never been properly celebrated and why he seemingly was almost written out of history".

Soon after he learned about Wharton, Shaun founded the Arthur Wharton Foundation . At the heart of the campaign was Campbell's desire to ensure that a fitting tribute was paid to Wharton, who he describes as "the original pioneer and trailblazer for everybody of colour in football, rugby, cricket and cycling".

In 2014, a statue of Wharton was erected at St George's Park, the English Football Association's national football centre.

Shaun was determined that the statue would only be the beginning of his mission to create a legacy that can inspire, motivate and "put right the wrongs of history".

Who was Arthur Wharton?

Arthur Wharton was born in Accra, in what is now Ghana, in 1865. His mother was a royal Fante princess and his father a Scottish missionary.

He came to the North East in 1883 to train to become a methodist preacher.

It was there that a man called Manny Hebron, of Darlington Cricket and Football Club, saw that this young African man had a "turn of speed".

Arthur would go on not only to play football professionally, but also cricket and rugby, as well as becoming a cycling champion and setting a world record for the 100-yard run.

By coming to Darlington and being embraced by the people of the North East, Arthur gave Darlington and the North East the world's greatest ever sporting icon.

Shaun Campbell, founder of the Arthur Wharton Foundation

The life and times of Arthur Wharton:

Buried in an unmarked grave in Edlington, South Yorkshire

Wharton also served as a member of the Home Guard, and later in life he became a miner and worked as a colliery hand, before dying "the most horrendous death" from an illness related to alcoholism and being buried in an unmarked grave.

Shaun Campbell recounts the life and times of Arthur Wharton.

From Wonder to Wharton

Although Campbell was determined to push Wharton's story into the mainstream, he realised he needed recognisable figures supporting the campaign.

The first to help was the then-Middlesbrough Football Club captain, Ghanaian-born midfielder George Boateng.

The next, remarkably, was American musician Stevie Wonder. In 2008, Campbell joined the star as they unveiled a bronze statue of Wharton.

While making a speech at the unveiling, Wonder announced on stage that Campbell led the ɺrthur Wharton Foundation', despite no such group existing at that point. It sparked Shaun into action and he promptly started the foundation.

Six years later, a statue of Wharton was erected at St George's Park.

Campbell said: "It's very powerful that he is there because there's a big problem with management within and throughout football.

The idea that this young black African that made his name here in Darlington would rise majestically is a powerful symbol to all of the England teams that pass him everyday they are there, that black lives matter.

Shaun Campbell explains how the Arthur Wharton Foundation was born.

"The statue is only the beginning - it's about the legacy"

Campbell believes that Arthur Wharton would have experienced racism during his time in Darlington, but would also have been seen as a novelty, receiving affection.

As well as looking back at Wharton's life, Shaun is determined to create lasting change for the future.

He said: "It has to be the next generation that grow up with that tolerance to not even have to think about skin colour.

"In 2020 racism has reared its ugly head again with a more visible presence, we have to start looking at why that is and what we can do about it."

Campbell adds that professional footballers such as Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling feel they have more of a voice now than in Wharton's day, and can speak out more readily against racist abuse with the use of social media.

He also says he has received threats during the campaign and has experienced racism in Darlington, both on and off the football pitch.

He said: "You know your response is going to be dealt with in a certain way, however you respond. So you have to be really careful.

"I'm sympathetic of the older generation who says the wrong thing, I try to deal with the situation in a way that is going to help educate them."

With a white mother and black father, Shaun is mixed race, which he says has created further challenges.

He said: "When my mother was ticking a box about her identity, she would tick 'white'. My father would tick ɻlack'.

As a young boy growing up, one of four boys, we had to tick 'other'. It starts to offend you. You start to think 'other'? What does this mean?

"The lack of equality is really acute in society at the moment. These things have to be picked up by a new generation because we haven't learned.

"It's about waking the youth up educationally and saying your future is our future, but your future is much longer than ours."

"The reason for everything I've done for Arthur has always been that black history should matter.

"Until black history matters, black lives will never matter."

Watch more interviews from our Black Voices in Conversation series here - or listen below:


Erika H. James

Erika H. James became the dean of the Wharton School on July 1, 2020. Trained as an organizational psychologist, Dean James is a leading expert on crisis leadership, workplace diversity and management strategy.

Prior to her appointment at Wharton, Dean James was the John H. Harland Dean at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School from 2014 to 2020.

An award-winning educator, accomplished consultant and researcher, she is the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean in Wharton’s 139-year history. As such she has paved the way for women in leadership both in education and corporate America. Dean James has been instrumental in developing groundbreaking executive education programs, including the Women’s Leadership program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School.

Known internationally, Dean James was named as one of the “Top 10 Women of Power in Education” by Black Enterprise and as one of the “Power 100” by Ebony. She has been quoted as an expert thought leader by the Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN.com and numerous other media outlets.

In addition to her academic responsibilities, Dean James is a board member of SurveyMonkey, a California-based market research and customer-experience company, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) and several organizations that align with her passion for education and advancing women in business. She is also a board member of Save the Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children through better education, health care and economic opportunities.

Dean James holds a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pomona College of the Claremont Colleges in California.

For more information, view Dean James’ CV here.

Previous Deans

Wharton has been shaped by its leaders — just 17 individuals, from Wharton’s first director Edmund J. James in 1883 to current Dean Erika James.

Show List

Geoffrey Garrett, 2014-2020

Over his six years as Wharton’s Dean, Geoffrey Garrett promoted progress and improvement at every level of the School. With a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation, the future of finance, and analytics, Garrett launched numerous initiatives including Analytics at Wharton, Venture Lab, and a dedicated Teaching Excellence effort. Garrett oversaw numerous construction projects including two game-changing buildings on Wharton’s Philadelphia campus with 150,000 combined square feet of experiential learning space. He also brought together the entire community in support of the More Than Ever fundraising campaign which raised over $850 million including the largest gift in School history.

Thomas S. Robertson, 2007-2014

In his tenure as dean, Thomas S. Robertson championed business as a force for good. He institutionalized three strategic pillars—Social Impact, Innovation, and Global Initiatives. He oversaw a comprehensive overhaul of the MBA curriculum, established the MBA “Semester in San Francisco,” and created the concept of Global Modular courses. He also led major initiatives—Lifelong Learning for alumni, the Wharton Public Policy Program, the establishment of the Penn-Wharton China Center, and a major commitment to online learning. Despite the financial crisis of 2008, Robertson led Wharton to exceed its campaign fundraising goal, raising $607 million, which allowed an increase in faculty size and a continued focus on faculty and student standards of excellence.

Patrick T. Harker, 1999-2007

Patrick T. Harker advanced and expanded the academic mission of the School, drawing many eminent faculty. He created Wharton | San Francisco and forged an alliance with INSEAD, the leading non-U.S. based business school. He also oversaw the launching of two innovative and successful initiatives: [email protected] and Wharton School Publishing. Harker led Wharton to complete the largest fundraising campaign in its history, raising over $450 million.

Thomas P. Gerrity, 1990-1999

Thomas P. Gerrity oversaw the revolutionary reengineering of the School’s MBA and undergraduate programs to reflect the increasingly global and technology-oriented world, ultimately bringing the School unprecedented worldwide recognition for excellence. During his tenure, student applications, student quality, and endowment reached record levels. Additionally, he spearheaded the fundraising effort for Jon M. Huntsman Hall, the world’s premier business school academic facility, completed in 2002.

Russell E. Palmer, 1983-1990

Russell E. Palmer laid the foundation for Wharton to move into the forefront of business education at the graduate, undergraduate, and executive levels. Through his five-year “Plan for Preeminence,” Palmer successfully strengthened and broadened the faculty, increased the quality of applications the School received, oversaw the building of the Steinberg Conference Center (a state-of-the-art executive education facility) and furthered the process of creating an international and cross-disciplinary curriculum.

Donald C. Carroll, 1972-1983

At the time of his selection, Donald C. Carroll was the first dean to have come from outside the School. During his tenure, he enhanced the School’s depth and strength through the development of interdisciplinary programs and the creation of inter-school degrees, including the undergraduate degree in Management & Technology. Additionally, Carroll significantly advanced Wharton’s international outreach efforts and executive education initiatives.

Willis J. Winn, 1958-1971

Willis J. Winn is credited with leading curricular reform and upgrading the quality of Wharton’s academic programs, the PhD and entrepreneurial programs in particular. In addition, Winn further strengthened Wharton’s reputation for research through his active recruitment of senior scholars.

C. Arthur Kulp, 1955-1957

C. Arthur Kulp, the first dean in Wharton’s history to be named with the participation of faculty, tragically died only two years into his administration. Prior to his death, however, Dean Kulp brought recognition to the School because of his expertise in the field of social insurance and his part in designing the Social Security System.

C. Canby Balderston, 1942-1954

C. Canby Balderston’s most significant contribution was the construction of the first building for the Wharton School, Dietrich Hall. Wharton faculty, staff, and students had long been waiting for a building of their own, and it was Balderston who spearheaded a fundraising campaign to make the new construction possible.

Alfred H. Williams, 1939-1941

A protégé of Willits, Alfred H. Williams had chaired the Geography and Industry Department and the School’s Curriculum Committee prior to being named dean. Despite a very promising future at the Wharton School, his tenure lasted only two years when he left to become president of the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank.

Joseph H. Willits, 1933-1939

During his administration, Joseph H. Willits emphasized the importance of economic research and its application to the affairs of business. By raising the standards for faculty and fostering the pursuit of academic business research, Willits helped further Wharton’s reputation as a prestigious institution of scholarly research.

Emory R. Johnson, 1919-1933

Emory R. Johnson brought depth to Wharton’s programs by requiring professional specialization among faculty and students and, for the first time, organizing faculty into academic departments and subject groups. Johnson also brought the MBA program, once a part of the University curriculum, under Wharton’s control.

William C. McClellan, 1916-1919

William C. McClellan worked closely with University trustees to raise the stature of the School within the University and secure continued support from outside benefactors.

Roswell C. McCrea, 1912-1916

Under Roswell C. McCrea’s leadership, the Wharton faculty continued its study of social problems and strengthened ties with the City of Philadelphia’s government administrators, who relied upon Wharton faculty for their expertise.


Rotherham and Sheffield United

After six years with Rotherham where he concentrated more on his football, he was part of the team that won the Midland League and gained promotion to the second division. Whilst at Rotherham he married a local girl, Emma Lister in 1893 and later had two daughters, Minnie and Nora. In 1894 he signed for first division Sheffield United, with the temptation of being the landlord of the Sportsman Cottage pub as an inducement. This was a common offer to footballers of the time, in lieu of a decent wage and may have contributed to an alcohol problem in later life. Timing in life though can count for a lot. He happened to sign at the same time as one of the most famous footballers of the day, William ‘Fatty’ Foulke. For those who don’t know of him, he was a goalkeeper of considerable size. At his peak was a colossal 6𔃾″ (at a time when the average man was much shorter than today) and his estimated weight was around 24 stone. It’s believed he was on the receiving end of the first rendition of “Who ate all the pies” from the terraces back in 1894. This imposing figure meant that Arthur Wharton only played three games for United. One of those games was against (soon to be League champions) Sunderland which made him the first black footballer to play in the English First Division.


Arthur Wharton, Racism and Sport: Past and Present

Much more is needed before we can claim that sport and other areas of society have done enough to assert that attempts to eradicate racism from sport have been a political success. Racisms in sport are complex, contextually specific and not divorced from issues of status, class, sexuality and marginality. Like other forms of injustice, racism is often associated with maldistribution of resources, misinformation and mis-recognition.

Sport has the potential to make a difference but it is also a fertile ground for expressions of racism.More needs to be done to unearth the injustices in every aspect of British public life. Footballing institutions are presented with a chance to use the life of Arthur Wharton and others as an educational tool to fight discrimination, reform practices and celebrate diversity. Such opportunities are often hindered by the fact that the presence of early BAME players in British football’s collective memory has been marginalised.

As is the case with many BAME footballers playing in Britain before 1950, their names are not as widely celebrated as has been the case with footballers such as Cyrille Regis, Laurie Cunningham, Viv Anderson, John Barnes, Rio Ferdinand, Marcus Rashford, Jermaine Defoe, Chris Smalling and many others.

Wharton’s name stands tall alongside the likes of Andrew Watson, Walter Tull and Hong Y Soo as footballing pioneers who struggled and in some cases failed to move into the modern collective memory of football in the UK.

The reasons for this suppression, marginalisation and injustice are varied but modern football needs to recognise their courage. Today’s footballers can draw on such courage as they seek to foster change not just within the footballing community but also British society and beyond.

In Wharton’s case class based discrimination stemming from his move from an amateur to professional sportsman played a role in his suppression from the historical cannon. Racism has also had a long term impact on the recognition and remembrance of his achievements.

Firstly, discriminatory racial attitudes affected how his talent was perceived during his lifetime and thus how his legacy was engaged with following his death.

Secondly, when the disciplines of sporting history, discourse theory, cultural studies and subaltern studies were simultaneously gaining strength in the 1970s and 1980s football in the UK was rife with racially discriminatory sentiments and imperialistic right-wing behaviour.

It was not until 1997, that through a campaign organised by anti-racism activists FURD to place a headstone on Wharton’s unmarked grave, that Wharton became a more widely recognised figure. He was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003.

Arthur Wharton’s life and sporting career.

Wharton was born in 1865 to a middle class family of mixed Ghanaian and Scottish heritage. He spent his childhood in the Ghanaian capital of Accra, then under British colonial rule. His father, a Wesleyan Missionary, had strong connections with Britain. Following his father’s death in 1873 Wharton concluded his education in England as per his family’s wishes and began to embrace an ecumenical life.

However, in an interview given in 1896, Wharton admitted that while his father:

“intended him for the Wesleyan ministry [his] inclinations did not lie in that direction.”

The Victorian fascination with the use of sport to transform the young into morally upstanding citizens prepared to defend the colonial realm ensured that sport played an integral part in the school curriculum.

Wharton remarks in 1887 that- “it was at Cannock School [Shoalhill College] that I first discovered that I was speedy.”

Wharton began competing in amateur athletics competitions while studying and despite his family’s reported belief that such a job was not appropriate for his station, he pursued a career in sport.

Wharton commenced as an amateur athlete before joining both Darlington Cricket and Football Club and Preston North End as a goalkeeper.

At Preston North End he joined William ‘Fatty’ Faulkes and the team of invincibles during their 1886-7 season FA Cup campaign in which they reached the semi-finals.

After setting the first known record for running the Amateur Athletics Association 100 yards sprint in 10 seconds in 1886 he was faced with the criticism that he was an athletic ‘shamateur’- that intensified when he won the same race in 1887.

In 1889 he signed for Rotherham Town as a professional footballer before going on to play for Sheffield United, Rotherham Town, Stalybridge Rovers, Ashton North End and Stockport County before retiring in 1902.

Described as a “first class all-round athlete” by the Ashton Herald in 1896, Wharton was also known to have played cricket, rugby and (albeit rather unsuccessfully) cycled.

While he is recorded as continuing to play sport well past his retirement, Wharton spent his final years working in collieries before his death in 1930.

Victorian engagement

In a Victorian society where scientific racism and social Darwinism shaped thinking about race and supported racism Wharton’s endeavours challenged many of the ideas of the day. Racism shaped views of black athleticism as being brutish and uncontrolled as a result of a perceived lack of self-restraint and intellectual ability.

However, in 1886 it is reported in the Darlington and Stockton Times that Wharton was warmly lauded at a Darlington Cricket Club dinner, when players performed a self-penned song in his honour. Wharton “received cheers of the heartiest, loudest and most enthusiastic in character” in a display of appreciation “of an athlete by athletes.”

His exceptional talents were warmly praised and upon his death representatives from his previous clubs were present at his funeral despite his alienation from football in his later years.

Crabbe and Solomos describe sport as a “passport to inclusion within [the Northern] version of local patriotism.”

An obituary in the Doncaster Chronicle states that Wharton “took a keen interest in all kinds of sport in the village [Edlington] and was very popular.”

While members of Wharton’s local community may have seen him as a talented and well-liked individual, this is not to say that Wharton avoided racial discrimination or abuse in society more broadly. Neither does it suggest that he was considered equal in the eyes of a fundamentally racist society where nationalism was shaped by a number of factors including imperialism and white superiority.

In 1888 it was reported that two of Wharton’s competitors were overheard questioning “Who’s he that we should be frightened of […] him beating us?”

When faced with Wharton’s undeniable talents a narrative forms to explain away any superiority that threatens white supremacy. When Wharton was described as “a born goalkeeper,” in Athletics News there is an underlying inference that his skill is unworthy of respect as it had come from the luck of birth and not the dedication and perseverance lauded as traits of the Victorian gentleman.

Much of the discrimination experienced on a daily basis went unrecorded by sources as it would have been considered the norm at the time.

What is clearly recorded is how his sporting superiority was explained through a narrative of moral and intellectual inferiority. In an obituary written after his death it was stated that “like many other West Africans, Wharton preferred a sporting to an intellectual career. “

Cultural assumptions made about Wharton’s race contributed to his suppression because they were based on his inherent inferiority. Berger and Niven are under no illusions that the promulgation of certain viewpoints in the writing of history are often conveniently linked to the consolidation and augmentation of power for certain dominant groups in society.

As the historical narrative is in part shaped by memory, and memory is filtered by what is considered most pertinent, even if Wharton regularly beat white men in the sporting arena he would have been seen as irrelevant and thus suppressed in the collective memory and historical cannon because his perceived superiority threatened the racial discourses that supported the dominant white narrative of the time that accompanied the history of sport in the UK.

Arthur Wharton’s relevance to-day

Many have argued that English football was rejuvenated in the 1990s. The creation of organisations such as Show Racism the Red Card and Kick It Out played a significant part in forcing football’s reticent institutions to directly challenge racist behaviour. Additionally, the transition from the 1986 Public Order Act to the 1991 Football Offences Act ensured that legislation specifically targeted racial abuse.

Racist behaviour is now condemned more readily and clubs are increasingly willing to undertake community outreach and grassroots projects to engage with the communities that they previously excluded.

However, the footballing community is still challenged by structures that support institutional racism. The disproportionate number of BAME coaches and managers stands as an embarrassing testament to this. Football institutions have a responsibility to address the issue and speed up not just the process of social change but social justice.

Widely propagating the history of a BAME footballer playing at the birth of football as we recognise it today provides an example of the importance of BAME people at the very heart of football’s early development in the UK. In doing so, it could further encourage an institution with a chequered past to advance its efforts to eradicate racism in football.

King quotes a black course member on an FA run UEFA coaching badge qualification course as saying that:

“I feel this course is just a minor image of the personalities who run it. They are backward thinking, racists and colonialists.”

Echoes of the racial stereotyping Wharton faced based on black athleticism not intellect may be part of an explanation as to why more BAME players are not transitioning into managerial roles.

If footballing clubs and institutions were to actively re-engage and celebrate the long-standing history of BAME contributions to British football perhaps more effective transformative gains could be made in the efforts to reduce discrimination.

The broken link between past and present should be championed in order to increase the number of role models and their stories ( e.g from Wharton to the modern day) about actively struggling to combat experiences of racism in sport.

Racism and anti-racism in and through sport remain and contribute to our understanding of contemporary life in at least two senses:

In a socio-economic sense, anti-racism policies and practices remind us that racism remains central to a complete understanding of sport, social inequality, justice and social policy.

In a geopolitical sense, different attitudes across Europe, towards the 2016 refugee crisis, for example, also remind us that sport is both implicated and a resource of hope, whereas racism continues to be a source of conflict between states, nations and communities that fail to act on the ideal of many cultures but one humanity.

The marginalised experience, voice and account of Arthur Wharton is but one of the many athletic encounters that can be activated in educational, social and political struggles against racism in and through sport.


The extraordinary story of Arthur Wharton, the first black professional footballer

Many who have walked through a particular churchless Doncaster graveyard will never have known of one its inhabitants’ extraordinary stories.

Arthur Wharton was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in 1930. He was born into conflict, as his country - then known as the Gold Coast, now Ghana - fought back against its British oppressors. Wharton was one of the lucky ones, able to flee to London, with the intention of becoming a missionary. In some ways, he never stopped running.

He flitted from one football club to the next as a young man but Wharton’s journey started at Darlington. He was a keen sportsman who’d equalled the amateur world record of 10 seconds for the 100-yard sprint, though curiously, he was most often used in goal, despite his lightning speed. He could play on the wing but would rather guard a net, showing incredible speed to close down attackers and supreme punching ability.

To equate Wharton to a modern-day equivalent is difficult. Imagine a custodian with Manuel Neuer's presence, just as fast as Theo Walcott. Now factor in that according to accounts, Wharton could jump, grab his crossbar and catch a ball between his legs. It certainly puts Rene Higuita’s scorpion kick to shame.

The famous Preston North End were said to be perplexed by him when they played against him. They offered him an opportunity to join their team and it was there that Wharton became part of the legendary side that managed an unbeaten league season in the 1880s, becoming the original 'Invincibles'. After that, Rotherham Town were impressed enough to give him a shot, making him the first black professional in the game.

This was an alien era of football one where the rules that we argue about in pubs today were yet to fully crystallise. Wharton’s exploits came between stints as a professional cricket player - playing multiple sports wasn’t uncommon back then - and he even beat the record for the cycling the quickest time between Preston and Blackburn.

Imagine your club’s goalkeeper doing that. The past, they say, is another country Wharton’s era was as foreign to us as he may have seemed to his team-mates.

Yet despite this incredible story, Arthur Wharton didn’t have so much as a headstone – let alone a footnote in the footballing history books. This was a man who played football as daringly as anyone before him or after. Opinion towards immigrants in the Victorian era was unkind, to say the very least. The mountain that Wharton had to walk up to prove his worth as a sportsman was steeper than many, if not all, of his peers.

He became the understudy to William &ldquoFatty&rdquo Foulke, another goalkeeper-come-cricketer, who became a legendary Victorian figure. He later coached Herbert Chapman, the pioneering manager who became the father of the modern game. He was an Invincible at Preston North End. Yet for so long, history neglected to mention Arthur Wharton and his contributions to sport alongside these other men.

How many more aspiring black sportsmen and women like Wharton will we never hear of? How many were denied opportunities in the Victorian age? What else could Wharton have achieved were it not for the colour of his skin? An international cap, surely, would have been one of those things. His tale is one of struggle and strife, of brilliance and individuality but equally, it’s one of colonial rule and how minorities were treated in our country.

Arthur Wharton retired in 1902. He became a colliery haulage worker and joined the Home Guard when war was declared in 1914, pledging his life to the country he had made his home 30 years before the country of his wife and children.

His latter years were crippled by a drinking problem and he died, penniless, at the age of 65 in Yorkshire.

In 2011, the FA invited his granddaughter, Sheila Leeson, as a guest of honour for England’s friendly against Ghana. The FA had plenty to thank Leeson for, too - Wharton’s story was kept alive from her own family photos. She helped to uncover one of the great stories of sporting history and now it’s immortalised in British footballing folklore.

Today, Wharton has his gravestone. He is also the subject of a beautiful 16-foot statue at St. George’s Park, depicting him leaping to touch a shot over a crossbar. Chronologically, he is the first footballer recognised in the English Football Hall of Fame. It’s the least that he deserves.

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Arthur Wharton: the world’s first professional black footballer

Schools are now looking to extend their study of significant individuals away from many of the conventional ones. This article looks at a lesser known individual, Arthur Wharton, which could make a good choice for teachers wanting to tap into pupils&rsquo interest. Arthur Wharton was the world&rsquos first black professional footballer.

Carter G. Woodson, the founder of what has become Black History Month, stated that &lsquoIf a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.&rsquo It is vital that we reclaim the histories of forgotten black heroes to allow children to identify with them and prevent the danger of losing stories that demand to be heard. This is true of the stories of the world&rsquos earliest black football player, Arthur Wharton. However, as Peter Lee remarked we should not simply be plundering the past for usable stories. Instead we should be looking to understand and respect people from the past on their terms.

Arthur Wharton was a remarkable character. He was born in 1865 but left a war-torn Ghana in 1882 to come to Britain to train to be a missionary. However, his real talents lay as a sportsman and he was a true all-rounder.


Watch the video: Arthur Wharton - The worlds first black professional footballer