“That this game has taken a firm hold of our people has been demonstrated beyond a doubt.”
—Major Aloysius Hart, 1910

Major Aloysius Hart

Major Aloysius Hart.

Role: Pioneering manager, promoter, and team owner.

Teams: St. Christopher Club, New York All Stars

In 1910, Major Aloysius Hart, the coach, manager, and promoter of the Manhattan-based St. Christopher Club’s basketball team, formed the first African American openly “pay-for-play” squad, called the New York All Stars.

He left the St. Christopher organization and persuaded top stars from the city’s amateur teams, including the best St. Christopher Club players, to join his new All Stars roster. “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 was boycotted by the St. Christopher Club’s athletic director, Rev. Everard Daniel of St. Philip’s Protestant Episcopal Church, the team’s sponsor, and by New York City’s amateur basketball establishment. The All Stars folded as a result.

The New York All Stars, ca. 1910, with Major Aloysius Hart (seated, second from right) and future African American basketball promoter and team owner Will Anthony Madden (reclined), then the All Star's mascot. (The Black Fives Foundation)

The New York All Stars, ca. 1910, with Major Aloysius Hart (seated, second from right) and future African American basketball promoter and team owner Will Anthony Madden (reclined), then the All Star’s mascot. 
(The Black Fives Foundation)

After retiring from basketball, Hart joined the United States Treasury Department (known today as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or ATF) in 1923 as a Prohibition Agent. “He raided more wildcat breweries and [distilleries] than any other man in the service,” according to Judge Roscoe C. Harper, former Chief of Prohibition under whom Hart had worked.

On July 16, 1927, Agent Hart was killed in the line of duty while as the result of a car accident while he was chasing bootleggers near Buffalo, New York.

As the result of exhaustive research by ATF historian Barbara Osteika assisted by Claude Johnson, Hart was recognized posthumously by his old department in 2010:

It seems that some people become stars through sheer determination and will, working hard and excelling in their chosen field of talent and expertise, regardless of what they do. Major Hart was this kind of man, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is proud to count him as one of its own. Today, we remem­ber and honor Major A. Hart, Prohibition Agent, an inspir­ing historical figure, for his innovative foresight, his bold and brave law enforcement work and his willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to the mission.