Black Fives - Claude Johnson

Black Fives

By Claude Johnson

  • Release Date: 2012-03-13
  • Genre: Basketball
Score: 4
From 22 Ratings


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 activities at 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. But the times were changing. The Alphas' 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.

The author is the founder and executive director of the Black Fives Foundation (

The foundation's mission is to research, preserve, and teach the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball while honoring its pioneers, bringing proper recognition to this once-forgotten but important history.

In doing so, their aim is to reveal the crucial life lessons this history can teach us, like leadership, character, collaboration, grit, and finding common ground.

The book includes a foreword by world-renowned hip-hop radio host, DJ, sneaker aficionado, MC, author, and film director Bobbito García.

There is also a Reader Discussion Guide included at the end of the book.


  • Great Insight

    By Iphiwin
    Great knowledgeable book that told the story of the beginning of basketball in the black community. I'm a avid Negro League fan and I knew some Negro League players and owners played basketball so that was my motivation to read this book. what I found by reading was amazing!! I did not know that 1st generation West Indian immigrants were such a dominant force in African American basketball nor did I know that Amateurism was such a important concept. Great book great insight Thanks for bringing this history to light.
  • Fives

    By Bdhddjs