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

Watch in full as Tafadzwa Mudiwa from ITV Tyne Tees chats to Shaun Campbell, founder of the Arthur Wharton Foundation.


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


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 he'd 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.

The statue of Arthur Wharton at St. George's Park, Burton-upon-Trent. Credit: PA

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.

Arthur Wharton Credit: Shaun Campbell

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:

1865

Born in Ghana

1883

Moves to Darlington

1930

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.

Campbell, Wonder and Boateng in 2008 Credit: Shaun Campbell

While making a speech at the unveiling, Wonder announced on stage that Campbell led the 'Arthur 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

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.

England footballer Raheem Sterling has spoken out against racist abuse in recent years. Credit: PA

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 'black'.

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?

Shaun Campbell

"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."


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