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The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era

The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era

by Claude Johnson
The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era

The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era

by Claude Johnson


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A groundbreaking, timely history of the largely unknown early days of Black basketball, bringing to life the trailblazing players, teams, and impresarios who made the game

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, the savvy moves of innovative businessmen, and the undeniable talent of star 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. The Black Fives 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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781419744365
Publisher: Abrams Press
Publication date: 05/24/2022
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 279,701
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Claude Johnson is a historian and founder of the Black Fives Foundation. He has a BS in civil engineering and economics from Carnegie Mellon and an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford. During a 20-year career in corporate America, Johnson held management and executive positions at IBM, American Express, NBA Properties, Nike, Phat Farm, and Benetton Sportsystem. He left to become a stay-at-home dad to his three sons, two of whom are now Division I college football players (the third is in high school). He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 An unmarked grave 1

Chapter 2 Survival 4

Chapter 3 Seeds 8

Chapter 4 Pittsburgh pedigree 29

Chapter 5 Rites of passage 39

Chapter 6 Satan's circus 54

Chapter 7 1901 65

Chapter 8 Physical culture 88

Chapter 9 St. Christopher 98

Chapter 10 Great struggle for victory 111

Chapter 11 A real corker 128

Chapter 12 As our white friends play it 159

Chapter 13 Wabash outlaws 185

Chapter 14 Sport for sport's sake 193

Chapter 15 A Janitor's key 201

Chapter 16 Virgil 221

Chapter 17 Maddening 232

Chapter 18 Supreme courts 250

Chapter 19 Loendi 262

Chapter 20 Outlaws 275

Chapter 21 Democracy lads 293

Chapter 22 The future of basketball 308

Chapter 23 Out-and-outers 332

Chapter 24 The New Negro 343

Chapter 25 Chicago crusaders 358

Chapter 26 "True world champions" 386

Chapter 27 World series of basketball 394

Chapter 28 The missing NBA team 398

Chapter 29 Vindication 412

Acknowledgments 423

Notes 429

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