Black Fives

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For the locomotive, see Black Five.


The term Black Fives refers to all-black basketball teams that thrived in the United States between 1904, when basketball was first introduced to African Americans on a large scale organized basis, and 1950, when the National Basketball Association became racially integrated. The period is known as the "Black Fives Era" or "Early Black Basketball" or simply "Black Basketball".

Early basketball teams were often called "fives” in reference to the five starting players. All-black teams were known as colored quints, colored fives, Negro fives, or black fives.

Dozens of all-black teams emerged during the Black Fives Era, in New York City, Washington, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and other cities. They were sponsored by or affiliated with churches, athletic clubs, social clubs, businesses, newspapers, YMCA branches, and other organizations.

The terms "Black Fives" and "Black Fives Era" are trademarked phrases owned by Black Fives, Inc., whose founder and owner, Claude Johnson, coined the terms while researching and promoting the period's history.

Washington and New York origins

Edwin Henderson introduced the game in Washington, D.C., beginning with physical education class at Howard University in 1904, thirteen years after basketball was invented. He envisioned basketball not as an end in itself but as a public-health and civil-rights tool. Henderson believed that, by...
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