FARE Network member organisation Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) has announced the film premiere of ‘The Arthur Wharton Story’.
This event will take place on Sunday 28th October – Arthur’s 147th birthday – at the Void Cinema in the Owen Building of Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield. ‘The Arthur Wharton Story’ is directed by Jenson Grant and stars BBC Children's TV presenter Johny Pitts.
First black professional footballer
Arthur Wharton was the world’s first black professional footballer, and the first man to run 100 yards in ‘even time’ (10 seconds flat) when winning the AAA sprint title at Stamford Bridge, London, in 1886. Wharton was born in Accra, Ghana in 1865. His footballing career included playing for Preston North End – who won the inaugural Football League title in 1888-9 – Rotherham United, Darlington, Stockport County and Sheffield United. When Arthur made his league debut for The Blades at Sunderland on 23 February 1895 he became the first black footballer to play in the English First Division.
'Absence of memory'
Arthur's later years were spent as a haulage hand at Yorkshire Main Colliery, Edlington, near Doncaster. He died in 1930 at the nearby Springwell Lane Workhouse, after a long and painful illness. Football Unites, Racism Divides raised the money to place a headstone on his previously unmarked grave in 1997, after 67 years 'absence of memory'.
Researching Arthur's life
A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, supported by a donation from the Professional Footballers Association, has enabled FURD to explore Wharton's amazing story through the use of art, drama, poetry and film in schools in Sheffield, Rotherham and Doncaster. Meanwhile a dedicated team of volunteer researchers have been busy putting together some of the missing fragments of Arthur's life.
The film premiere will also feature a panel discussion and a history of black footballers quiz. The first African-Caribbean Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor John Campbell, will be in attendance, and following some detective work by the researchers group, Kim Grant, a Ghanaian-born relative of Arthur and former professional footballer with Charlton Athletic, Luton Town and Millwall, will also be present. Several former and current players, including Blades hero Brian Deane and Wednesday star Jose Semedo, are expected to attend.