Big East Conference To Honor The Black Fives Era Of Basketball For Black History Month

Basketball is a global game. But it has roots deep within Black American culture before integration of the NBA and other professional leagues. The Big East Conference is set to honor that history as it extends its partnership with the Black Fives Foundation. The Big East will host 22 games honoring Black athletes, coaches and communities who played a critical role in America’s basketball history.

What Is The Black Fives Foundation?

The Black Fives Foundation is a nonprofit public charity whose mission is to research, preserve, showcase, teach and honor the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball.

“Black Fives” refers to the all-Black basketball teams that existed in the United States between 1904 and 1950, when the NBA signed its first Black players.

In the 22 games, Big East men’s and women’s hoops teams will be wearing shirts with the Black Fives mantra “Make History Now.” Coaches will wear pins with the mantra and fans will be educated through videos and other game-day presentations on the relevance and importance of the Black Fives.

“We are excited about partnering with the BIG EAST Conference again this season,” said Claude Johnson, executive director of the Black Fives Foundation. “This partnership provides an ideal opportunity for us to tell the stories of the players and teams whose contributions helped shape the sport of basketball we know and love today. Bringing greater awareness to this history will be especially meaningful with a conference like the BIG EAST whose member schools are among the finest academic institutions in the world.”

Big East Remembering All-Black Teams

All-Black teams emerged during the Black Fives Era, in New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland and other cities. They were sponsored by or affiliated with churches, athletic clubs, social clubs, businesses, newspapers, YMCAs, and other community organizations.

“Our basketball-centric identity and commitment to diversity and inclusion creates an optimal conference-wide platform for our men’s and women’s basketball teams to honor the Black Fives Era and educate individuals on this significant time in Black history,” said BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman. “This is an opportunity to celebrate pioneers in the member schools’ communities and to highlight their impact on the game of basketball and the community as a whole.”

Who’s The ‘Grandfather Of Black Basketball?’

Teacher and NAACP pioneer Edwin Henderson is someone who should be featured in the game day programs. He is considered the “Grandfather of Black Basketball,” and is credited with being the first to introduce the game of basketball to Black people on a large-scale organized way, in the winter of 1904, in D.C., through physical education classes in the district’s racially segregated public school system.

This introduction took place roughly 13 years after basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith. Henderson learned the sport while taking summer classes at Harvard University.

Henderson didn’t see basketball as the end itself but rather a means to a better end for Black people. He thought organized Black athletics would allow more outstanding Black athletes to attend Northern white colleges, excel and debunk racial stereotypes.

The first men’s game to honor the Black Five will be the Feb. 15 matchup between Xavier and Marquette.


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