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Black History: Special Delivery!!


Black Athletes

Before The NBA:  The Black Fives Basketball Era (1904-1950)

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Welcome To Black Mail…..where we bring you Black History:  Special Delivery!

The game of basketball was invented in 1891. Teams were called “fives” because games were played with five players on the floor. Like the rest of society at the time, the sport was segregated. All black squads were called “Black Fives.” Between 1904-1950 is known as the “Black Fives Era” when the first all-black basketball teams began to play. The era ended when the NBA began to accept black players in 1950. Basketball was first introduced to the black community by Dr. Edwin B. Henderson in 1904. Due to Jim Crow segregation and discrimination, black teams were forbidden to play in white establishments. Black teams played in dance halls, churches, and other venues that would accept them. The games were popular social events in the black community. Often dances would be offered before and after games. 

Though stories about all-black male teams abound, dozens of African American female basketball teams also played during the Black Fives Era. The New York Girls was one of the first independent African American female teams. It was formed in 1910 in Manhattan and was a sister club affiliated with the Alpha Physical Culture club mens team. Their first game was played in February 1910 against The Jersey Girls

Both mens and womens teams received national coverage in the black press. The sport continued to grow in popularity with women despite “warnings” by many that basketball was dangerous for women. In 1911 one male physician declared that “basketball is injurious and should not be engaged in by girls or women…the nature of women should keep them from this dangerous sport.”

Click here to check out an informative short film from the New York Historical Society about the Black Fives Era.

Another installment of melanated mail has been delivered. Ponder, reflect, and pass it on. 

African American Firsts In The NBA

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Bill Russell was an African American NBA player who played 13 seasons from 1956-1969. 4th African-American player to sign with the NBA team.  He was the first African American NBA coach (1966-1969).

Black Mail Fast Facts:  (From

The NBA shares a number of interesting sports related Black History Facts.  Check them out below:

  • 1968 First African American referee in the NBA (Ken Hudson)
  • 1971-72 First African American bench coach named (Earl Lloyd, Detroit Pistons)
  • 1972 First African American NBA General Manager named (Wayne Embry). He is the first black General Manager in professional sports.
  • 1972 First African American owner/coach elected to Basketball Hall of Fame as a significant contributor to the sport (Bob Douglass, New York Renaissance)
  • 1972 Title IX legislation prohibits sexual discrimination and mandates funding equity for women in sports in all federal funded educational facilities.
  • 1972 First African American head coach to win a NCAA Division I championship (John Thompson, Georgetown University)
  • 1997 First Season of the newly established WNBA, the sister league to the NBA
  • 2002 First African American owner of an NBA franchise team (Robert Johnson, Charlotte Bobcats)

Check out more black history facts from The NBA:

Check out some of our earlier posts:

Annie Lee: African American Artist Who Captured Black Americana Through Her Paintings

Mississippi Appendectomy: History of Involuntary Sterilization of African American Women

NASA Mathematician Recieves Medal of Honor




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