Arthur Wharton was born in The Gold Coast (Ghana). He was educated in London and then moved to Grenada in the West Indies. At the age of 17 he returned to England to train as a missionary teacher. However he soon abandoned this in favour of following a career in sport. He was an accomplished cricketer, cyclist and sprinter (a World record holder with 100 yards in 10 seconds in 1886).
Unusually for a sprinter, Wharton was primarily a goalkeeper, although he did also play on the wing.
He was on the books at Darlington and Preston North End as an amateur between 1885 and 1888. Though he never commanded a regular first team place he did play in the FA Cup semi final for Preston. After taking a break from football to focus on sprinting, he joined Rotherham Town as a professional in 1889. He became the first black/ mixed race player to play in the First Division when he was with Sheffield United in the 1894-95 season. After spells with Stalybridge Rovers (he also coached Rovers,signing Herbert Chapman in 1896) and Ashton North End he ended his career with Stockport County.
During his playing career Wharton had also been a pub landlord. Sadly he died a destitute alcoholic in 1930.