During the month of February, the Atlanta Hawks and the Black Fives Foundation will be engaging the community and releasing various stories to educate people on Atlanta’s unique place within basketball history.
What are the Black Fives?
A pioneering history of the African American basketball teams, players, and contributors existed in New York City and elsewhere during a period known as the Black Fives Era, from the early 1900s through 1950, the year the National Basketball Association became racially integrated.
Just after the game of basketball was invented in 1891, “fives” referred to the five starting players on a basketball team. All-black teams were often known as colored quints, Negro cagers, or “black fives.”
Dozens of Black Fives emerged, flourished, and excelled in New York City, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and in other cities with substantial African American populations. They were amateur, semi-professional, and professional.
African American teams played within a well-organized nationwide barnstorming circuit. They commanded national attention in the Negro press and headlines in local papers while battling for the annual right to be called “Colored Basketball World’s Champions.”
For African Americans, the Black Fives Era paralleled the advancement of black culture itself. These teams and players fostered hope, unity, and self-esteem during difficult times. The men and women of the Black Fives Era were true basketball pioneers who opened doors for generations of African American players.
IMAGES COURTESY OF THE BLACK FIVES FOUNDATION ARCHIVES, THE AUBURN AVENUE RESEARCH LIBRARY REFERENCE AND RESEARCH DIVISION, GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES, EMORY UNIVERSITY ROBERT W. WOODRUFF LIBRARY, AND THE BUTLER STREET COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION.
About the Black Fives Foundation
The Black Fives Foundation works to research, preserve, exhibit, and promote the pre-1950 history of African Americans in basketball to engage, teach, and inspire youth and others while honoring its pioneers and their descendants.
With your help the Black Fives Foundation brings the stories of the pioneers of the Black Fives Era back to life, to engage communities in ways that are relevant today and to honor those forebears!