Girls with basketball

Unidentified group of African American girls, possibly college students, posing with a basketball | Ca. 1910s | Photograph

Ballard girls basketball team

Members of a girl’s basketball team (Ballard) accompanied by a boy, possibly the team manager | Ca. 1920s | Reproduction

WHS basketball team

Members of an African American youth basketball team (WHS), accompanied by adult woman, indicative of the role of basketball in early twentieth century education | Ca. 1910s-1920s | Photograph

Akron Community Center

Unidentified basketball team, players with coach/manager/promoter. | Ca. 1930s | Photograph

Boys with ball in knickers

Unidentified group of African American youth with basketball | Ca. 1905 | Photograph

Men with ball

Unidentified group of African American men in street clothes, posing with a basketball, indicates the emerging urban presence of the game | Ca.1920s | Postcard

Young men with car

Unidentified basketball team posing with automobile | Ca. 1910s | Photograph

Manhattan Casino sheet music

Everett J. Evans | Manhattan Casino March & Two Step | Published by J. W. Pepper, Philadelphia, Pa. | Ca. 1910s | Sheet music

Manhattan Casino film shoot

Paramount Pictures film location shot of Lionel Barrymore inside the Manhattan Casino, a popular site for a wide variety of social, community, athletic, and political activities | Ca. 1922 | Postcard

Manhattan Casino ad

Advertisement for the Manhattan Casino | Souvenir Program of the New York Schuetzen-Bund (Rifle Club) No. 1 Silver Jubilee | 1910

When the phonograph became commercially viable in the early 1900s, demand for African American jazz, ragtime, and blues orchestras exploded, and a dance craze followed. People traded in sheet music and player pianos for dancing shoes, causing a boom in the expansion and construction of dance halls and ballrooms, including the Manhattan Casino in Harlem, opened in 1903.

Enterprising black basketball promoters booked these large spaces not just as playing venues for their teams–which were otherwise barred from whites-only gymnasiums–but also to promote local African American musicians, whose orchestras would perform before, during, and after competitions. 


Edwin B. Henderson and William A. Joiner, editors | Inter-scholastic Athletic Association of Middle Atlantic States | Official Handbook for 1911 | (Spalding’s Athletic Library, auxiliary series) | New York: American Sports Publishing Company, 1911 | Springfield College Archives and Special Collections

The Official Handbook of the Inter-scholastic Athletic Association of the Middle Atlantic States provides details about African American basketball between 1910 and 1913, the years during which it was published. The handbooks are a compilation of profiles and photographs solicited from black basketball programs along the East Coast, throughout the South, and as far west as Iowa.

“The Interscholastic Athletic Association Handbook had the distinction,” Henderson said in 1954, “of being the first book that was ever written by a black man which dealt specifically with black athletics in black schools.” 

Loving Cup

Southington Cutlery Company, Southington, CT | I A C Basket Ball ’08-’09, a “loving cup” trophy typical of the period | 1909 | Silver plate

The rapid growth of basketball among African Americans resulted in the formation of numerous teams, many of which remain unidentified. In competition among amateur teams, trophies known as Loving Cups–representative of camaraderie and goodwill among the participants–were often awarded to the winners of tournaments or to a league’s first place finishers.

Reach Catalog

A.J. Reach Company, Philadelphia | Advertisement for basketballs and bladders | Reach Official Basket Ball Guide 1913-1914, page 210 | 1913

The annual Reach Basket Ball Guide, published from 1902 to 1927 by the A. J. Reach Company, a leading sporting goods supplier, details the significant evolution of basketball equipment and merchandise during this period.

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