Location: Orange, New Jersey
Nickname: “The Independents,” “The Big Six”
Colors: Forest Green, Ivory
Manager: Nelson Frye
The Independent Pleasure Club was formed in 1908 in Orange, New Jersey at a time when the practice of sports was seen as a “pleasure” activity.
To avoid restrictions on their activities or game schedules by outside parties or governing bodies, the club remained independent, that is, they avoided affiliations with churches, Y.M.C.A.s, schools, or Amateur Athletic Union chapters.
The basketball team of the Independent Pleasure Club was one of the top African American squads in the East through the mid-1910s.
After defeating the Alpha Big Five and the Smart Set in the 1912-13 season, the “Independents,” also known as the “Big Six,” were awarded the Colored Basketball Championship of New Jersey.
The team used a lineup that included club president and star player Samuel Hayes, strongman Howard Johnson, and club vice president Nelson Frye.
Like many other black fives of that era, the Independents—whose literature advocated, “uplifting the colored athletic standard”—staged social events to raise funds and strengthen camaraderie among athletes as well as to build community awareness.
Though these functions were light-hearted and fun—they included picnics, cigar “smokers,” music recitals, dances, poetry readings, and theatrical plays—they also played an important role for club members by reinforcing their values and aspirations as men.