A Look Into African-American Sports History
January 27, 2010
As Stonehill celebrates Black History Month, the Office of Intercultural Affairs and Skyhawk basketball teams will welcome Claude Johnson, the founding president of Black Fives Inc, a steward and resource for the history of African-American participation in basketball, on Thursday, February 4 at 7 p.m. in the Martin Institute.
Johnson will share with the audience stories and experiences of the players from the early 1900s until the integration of the NBA in 1950, known as the Black Fives Era.
"Black History Month is an important opportunity for our community to learn about the issues and embrace the achievements of African-Americans," notes Liza Talusan, director of Intercultural Affairs at Stonehill.
While working for the NBA and Nike, Johnson began researching little known information on African-American basketball in the early 20th century. Discovering there were dozens of talented African-American teams spanning half a century, he trademarked the names and logos of each.
In 2001, Johnson decided to end his 20-year corporate career and pursue his research full-time and, to prove there was a market for this important piece of history, created Black Fives Inc.
"I've always liked history, but history is limited unless we make it meaningful for today," notes Johnson.
The company name stems from the nickname all African-American teams were known by, the "black fives," referring to the starting five players on each team.
The rise of black professional basketball in America, including the New York Renaissance or the "Rens," began in 1920. The Rens' first victory over the white world champion Original Celtics in 1925 was considered by many to be a turning point in both basketball and race relations in the United States.
Prior to forming Black Fives, Johnson held several management and executive positions in engineering, apparel merchandising, licensing, marketing and sales.
Johnson holds a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering degree from Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, respectively. He currently sits on the Advisory Council of the Carnegie Mellon University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and is a member of the University's Andrew Carnegie Society.
Johnson is also an active member of the Association of Professional Basketball Researchers, the North American Society for Sport History, and the American Library Association.
For more information, contact Intercultural Affairs at 508-565-1363.