The Black Fivesisa groundbreaking, timely history of the largely unknown early days of Black basketball, bringing to life the trailblazing players, teams, and impresarios who pioneered the sport.
“For a game that has meant so much to the world, Claude Johnson somehow presents a definitive account for a part of basketball’s history that for so long was kept away from us. Claude is a superhero storyteller, and this book is a bona fide superpower.” —Justin Tinsley, author ofIt Was All a Dream: Biggie and the World That Made Him
From the introduction of the game of basketball to Black communities on a wide scale in 1904 to the racial integration of the NBA in 1950, dozens of African American teams were founded and flourished. This period, known as the Black Fives Era (teams at the time were often called “fives”), was a time of pioneering players and managers. They battled discrimination and marginalization and created culturally rich, socially meaningful events. But despite headline-making rivalries between big-city clubs, barnstorming tours across the country, innovative business models, and undeniably talented players, this period is almost entirely unknown to basketball fans.
Claude Johnson has made it his mission to change that. An advocate fiercely committed to our history, for more than two decades Johnson has conducted interviews, mined archives, collected artifacts, and helped to preserve this historically important African American experience that otherwise would have been lost. This essential book is the result of his work, a landmark narrative history that braids together the stories of these forgotten pioneers and rewrites our understanding of the story of basketball.