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.