Arthur Wharton is generally considered to be the first-ever Black professional footballer in Great Britain and the world.
Wharton was born in the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1865 and moved to England at the age of 19 to pursue training in the Methodist church. Once in Europe, Wharton soon abandoned his religious aims and instead focused on becoming a full-time athlete. He excelled in cycling, cricket, and most notably football. Wharton’s first club was Darlington, where he played as a goalkeeper in the 1886 season before later moves to Preston North End, Rotherham, Sheffield United, and Stockport County. Despite his abilities and achievements, Wharton’s later life was marked with hardship and he was buried in a pauper’s grave in 1930.
In 2003, Wharton was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his role as a pioneer for black players. In 2020, a large mural was completed of Wharton on the side of a nondescript street in Darlington, the home of his first football club and where the Arthur Wharton Foundation is located.
Artist Jay Kaes painted the mural with help from local artists. The mural is also known as “Kwame” which means “boy born on a Saturday” in the Akan language of Ghana.
Know Before You Go
The mural can be seen at the side of the final house of Drury Street, best viewed from Widdowfield Street.
There is ample parking in the surrounding streets, and the mural is less than half a mile from North Road (Darlington) station. The mural can be viewed at any time, and there is level access.