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The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball's Forgotten Era, by Claude Johnson (Hardcover)

Abrams Press

Regular price $30.00

A groundbreaking, timely history of the largely unknown early days of Black basketball, bringing to life the trailblazing players, teams, and impresarios who made the game.

Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Imprint: Abrams Press
Trim Size: 6" x 9"
Weight: 28 oz. (0.79 kg.)
ISBN: 978-1-4197-4436-5
Page Count: 480
Additional formats: eBook
Rights: World/All

From the introduction of the game of basketball to Black communities on a wide scale in 1904 to the racial integration of the NBA in 1950, dozens of African American teams were founded and flourished. This period, known as the Black Fives Era (teams at the time were often called “fives”), was a time of pioneering players and managers. They battled discrimination and marginalization and created culturally rich, socially meaningful events. But despite headline-making rivalries between big-city clubs, the savvy moves of innovative businessmen, and the undeniable talent of star players, this period is almost entirely unknown to basketball fans.

Claude Johnson has made it his mission to change that. An advocate fiercely committed to our history, for more than two decades Johnson has conducted interviews, mined archives, collected artifacts, and helped to preserve this historically important African American experience that otherwise would have been lost. The Black Fives is the result of his work, a landmark narrative history that braids together the stories of these forgotten pioneers and rewrites our understanding of the story of basketball.

Claude Johnson is a historian and founder of the Black Fives Foundation. He has a BS in civil engineering and economics from Carnegie Mellon and an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford. During a 20-year career in corporate America, Johnson held management and executive positions at IBM, American Express, NBA Properties, Nike, Phat Farm, and Benetton Sportsystem. He left to become a stay-at-home dad to his three student-athlete three sons. His oldest won four conference championships as a cornerback at the University of San Diego, recently graduating with a B.S. in marketing, his middle son is a fifth-year senior wide receiver at the University of Michigan, recently earning a B.S. in communications, and his youngest, a high school senior point guard, has committed to play basketball at the United States Naval Academy. He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.


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Audible (AUDIO: 20 hours, 15 min.)



February 17, 2023: Heinz History Center, Pittsburgh, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, free to the public but prior registration is required.

(Stay tuned as more dates are added)

(To schedule book talks or interviews please email


May 31, 2022: The Gist with Mike Pesca

June 2, 2022: The OKC Thunder Basketball Universe

June 6, 2022: Tavis Smiley Show

June 14, 2022: Black Authors Matter TV

June 16, 2022: CBS News with James Brown

(Stay tuned as more dates are added)

(To schedule book talks or interviews please email


USA TODAY: Top 5 recommended summer 2022 reading list for sports

Library Journal: "VERDICT: Highly readable, this work should not be missed. Essential and highly recommended for all libraries.”

Literary Hub: Unearthing the Pre-NBA History of African American Basketball

Andscape: New book on the ‘Black Fives’ restores the buried history of basketball

SLAM Online: ‘The Black Fives’ Tells the Monumental History of the Black Pioneers Who Revolutionized the Game

Baltimore Banner: Examining Baltimore’s roots as a basketball juggernaut: A Conversation with author and hoops historian Claude Johnson

AudioFile: Review of audiobook, narrated by the author

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: How the Black Fives put Pittsburgh on the basketball map

(Stay tuned as more posts are added)

(To schedule book talks or interviews please email

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