As part of Black History Month we celebrate history maker Walter Tull. In the year he is inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame, we take a look at the history of the first black outfield player to play in the Football League and how his legacy is being remembered today.

Walter Daniel John Tull was born in Kent in 1888. His father, Daniel, came to Britain from Barbados in 1876, settling in Folkstone and marrying a local girl, Alice Palmer. Sadly, Walter’s parents both died when he was just a child, so he and his older brother, Edward, were admitted to an orphanage in Bethnal Green.

Walter’s skills with a ball at his feet led him away from a printing apprenticeship and into the life of a footballer. After playing in a Clapton FC team who he helped to an historic treble, Tull would sign a professional contract with Tottenham Hotspur – at the time the richest club in London.

Walter experienced racism throughout his career, regularly facing racist abuse both on and off the pitch.

Newspaper reports from this period describe the abuse that Tull would get from opposing fans. One of these reports, in the Football Star in 1909, details the racism Tull experienced from Bristol City fans in an article with the headline ‘Football and Colour Prejudice’.  This is thought to be the first ever time that racial abuse was mentioned in a football report.  

From Tottenham, Tull would go on to Northampton Town where he made 111 appearances in three years before enlisting in the British Army at the beginning of the First World War.

Tull would become the first ever black officer in the British Army, despite regulations at the time that forbade soldiers that were not "natural born or naturalised British subjects of pure European descent" from becoming army officers.

During the First Battle of Bapaume on 25 March 1918 Tull was killed in action, and despite the efforts of others in his battalion his body was never recovered.

For Black History Month 2021, Tull was inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in an event attended by his grandnephew Edward Finlayson.

The induction recognises his ground-breaking football career and his pioneering successes as one of the first black professional footballers, laying foundations for the black sporting community of the future.

Walter Tull's grandnephew Edward Finlayson collects the Hall of Fame award at the National Football Museum.

It is not the only way Tull is being celebrated in the modern day.

Clapton CFC have recently celebrated his legacy in East London with a commemorative banner designed by leading trade union banner maker Ed Hall.

The banner forms part of Newham Council’s celebration of black footballers who were born or played in the borough, curated by Neandra Etienne, and is also due to go on display when Clapton CFC make their long-awaited return to the Old Spotted Dog football ground.

In recent years Walter Tull has seen his name given to the Walter Tull Memorial Cup – a pre-season friendly contested between Spurs and Rangers in 2004 – and, in 2014, a commemorative £5 coin.

With his induction into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame and plans in place for the banner to regularly fly at The Old Spotted Dog, Tull’s legacy is set to be celebrated by the football community for many more years to come.