Claude Johnson

Recent Articles

Current NBA stars honor their Black Fives predecessors

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we approach the wind-down days of Black History Month 2014, it’s refreshing to see other Black contributors besides the usual few names often presented — such as overlooked Black athletes who labored in virtual obscurity during the Jim Crow era. Thanks to the nonprofit Black Fives Foundation in New York for “tell[ing] the story of the pre-1950 history of African Americans in basketball.” The “Black Fives” name comes from the all-Black basketball teams that played in Brooklyn, Harlem, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pittsburgh, Newark and Los Angeles. These teams “ushered in the Harlem Renaissance period, smashed the color barrier in pro basketball and helped pave the way for the Civil Rights Movement,” wrote founder Claude Johnson on the foundation’s website (www.blackfives.org). Johnson and director Loren Mendell teamed up with Fox Sports Net, which broadcasts NBA games for 13 teams including the Minnesota Timberwolves, to create a series of 30-second TV vignettes honoring Black Fives era pioneers during Black History Month. They are aired during halftime of the telecasts. Continue Reading →

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Recognition of early ‘Black Fives’ players long overdue

The NCAA this year is celebrating 75 years of March Madness. Before it became an overhyped trademark, and before it became a behemoth cash cow for everyone but the players, the annual tourney for decades was a White-only affair. The celebrating hoopla shouldn’t overlook this fact. Claude Johnson founded the Greenwich, Conn.-based Black Fives Foundation in 2001. It is named for the number of Black players on the court and the basketball league of the same name that ran for nearly 50 years (1904-1950), at least three decades before the Negro Leagues. It also was a clear affront to the racially segregated unwritten rule that limited the number of players of color allowed on the court  (two at home, one on the road), a rule that existed in the NBA, its forerunner the National Basketball League, and in college hoops well into the 1960s. Continue Reading →

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