(From the Stonehill College Office of Intercultural Affairs)
As Stonehill College (Easton, Massachusetts) celebrates Black History Month, the Office of Intercultural Affairs will welcome Claude Johnson, the founder and 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 the stories and experiences of the players and teams from the early 1900s through the integration of the NBA in 1950, known as the Black Fives Era.
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.
After being laid-off in 2001, Johnson decided to end his 20-year corporate career and pursue his research full-time. To prove there was a market for this important piece of history, he created Black Fives Inc.
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.
“I’ve always liked history, but history is limited unless we make it meaningful for today,” notes Johnson.
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, as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Greenwich Public Library.
“I grew up in Massachusetts, so I always like coming back to the Greater Boston area,” said Johnson. “It’ll be a fun, lively discussion full of all the things I’m known to like to talk about — not just an endless history lecture.”