AuthorsLive: Greenwich's Own Claude Johnson to discuss Black Fives
Greenwich Library will present Greenwich resident Claude Johnson, author of Black Fives: The Alpha Physical Culture Club's Pioneering African American Basketball Team, 1904-1923 on Wednesday, June 13, at 7 p.m. in the Meeting Room.
Formed in 1904, the Alpha Physical Culture Club of Harlem was America's first African American athletic club. Conrad Norman, its Jamaican-born founder, hoped to address rampant lung disease among blacks living in New York City's overcrowded tenements by providing proper exercise facilities they could use without bias. The club's basketball team, the Alpha Big Five, became nationally famous during the 1910s while sticking faithfully to the strictest amateur ideals. West Indian sports promoters were controlling black basketball then, and favored this approach. But the times were changing. The Alpha's version of pure sport for its own sake was threatened by new black fives with visions of play-for-pay, led by team owners like fellow Caribbean immigrant Robert Douglas. Which ideal would prevail? The future of basketball was at stake.
Claude Johnson is the founder and president of Black Fives, Inc., a vintage sports licensing company dedicated to researching, preserving, promoting, and teaching about the history of African American basketball teams that played from the early 1900s through the racial integration of the National Basketball Association in 1950, a period known as the Black Fives Era.
Johnson created the company starting with little more than his library card. "I've always liked history, but history is limited unless we make it meaningful for today," says Johnson, who is a considered a leading authority on this subject. He also advocates on behalf of the descendants of the pioneering basketball players and contributors of the era.
AuthorsLive@GreenwichLibrary is made possible through the support of the Greenwich Library Board of Trustees and contributions by generous donors. Books will be available for purchase and signing at the event. This program is free and open to all, doors will open at 6:30 p.m. For more information, please contact the Public Relations Office at (203) 622-7965.