Major A. Hart

Major A. Hart, first to openly promote play-for-pay among all-black teams.

On October 13, 1910, the history of African American basketball shifted forever.

Major Aloysius Hart, the manager of the St. Christopher Club — a church-sponsored basketball team that played with strict adherence to amateur standards and moral virtues — quit the organization and took its best players with him to form the first all-black play-for-pay basketball team, a new squad aptly called the New York All Stars.

“That this game has taken a firm hold of our people,” wrote Hart, an African American who had served in the Philippines as a rifleman in the Spanish-American War, “has been demonstrated beyond a doubt.”

Hart experienced a significant amount of grief in the form of condemnation through the Negro press, because professionalism in sports was still considered to be “sinful.”

New York All Stars

The New York All Stars, 1910.

“This team was not formed for any spirit of revenge or to hurt any of the good clubs that are in the game, as has been rumored,” Hart wrote in an open letter to the public.  “We are not trying to break up any club or to cause any hard feelings.”

The St. Christopher Club lost many of its top players, but they were not the only team to lose its top players to the All Stars. Other players from the New York City area defecting to Hart’s team included Ferdinand Accooe and Charlie Scottron of the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn.

“We want to play the game as our white friends play it,” Hart insisted.