New York Incorporators basketball team, featuring owner/promoter Will Anthony Madden and mascot Ralph Cooper, future movie star and creator of “Amateur Night at the Apollo” | 1915 | Photograph | Collection of David Skinner
Will Anthony Madden’s New York Incorporators won the 1914-15 Colored Basketball World’s Championship. Also in 1915, Madden was named basketball editor of the widely circulated New York Age newspaper, allowing him to hype his team in the name of impartial journalism. “Everybody from everywhere will be there,” he wrote in November 1915, before an Incorporators’ game. “Basketball, music, dancing, colors, flags, pennants, barges, souvenirs, pictures, and a score of pretty girls as officials will make the day one long to be remembered.”
Monticello Athletic Association basketball team of Pittsburgh, PA, featuring Cumberland Posey, Jr. | 1910 | Reproduction | Zerbie Dorsey Swain Collection
Johnson, P[ittsbur]gh. Pa. | Cumberland Posey, Jr. in a Homestead Grays basketball team uniform | 1925 | Photograph
During the 1910s and early 1920s, Pittsburgh native Cumberland Posey, Jr. was considered the greatest African American basketball player of his time. Though his father was reportedly the country’s wealthiest African American, Posey was drawn to the city’s rugged sandlot sports scene. He led Homestead High School to the 1908 city basketball championship before becoming Penn State’s first black varsity basketball player in 1910. In 1911, Posey formed the Monticello Athletic Association, which promptly won the 1911-12 Colored Basketball World’s Championship. He also played for the Homestead Grays basketball team in the mid-1920s.
Duquesne University Varsity Basketball Team, featuring Cumberland Posey, Jr. using the alias “Posey Cumbert” | 1917 | Photograph
In 1915, while still with the Loendi Big Five basketball squad, Cumberland Posey, Jr. joined the varsity basketball team of Duquesne College of the Holy Ghost (now Duquesne University) using the alias Posey Cumbert, and subsequently led them in scoring for three straight seasons. Though records show that Posey never enrolled nor attended any classes, he was enshrined into the Duquesne University Sports Hall of Fame in 1988, under his real name. Posey helped pave the way for Chuck Cooper, who attended Duquesne in the 1940s and in 1950, became one of the first three African American players in the NBA.
Advertisement for basketball game between Will Anthony Madden’s “Incorporators” and the Fred D. Pollard’s Providence Collegians | The Crisis – A Record of the Darker Races, Vol. 13, No. 5, March 1917, Whole No. 77, p. 249 | 1917
Frederick “Fritz” Pollard, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, holds a March 1917 advertisement featuring his Providence Collegians basketball team vs. the New York Incorporators, a game that did not take place | Ca. 1950s | Photograph
Will Anthony Madden was the first black basketball promoter to place ads in major national publications, including the NAACP’s The Crisis: A Record of The Darker Races.A four-time winner of the Colored Basketball World’s Championship with two different teams (St. Christopher Club, Incorporators), Madden also introduced to black basketball the hiring of expert coaches (proficient at “scientific basketball”), inter-city rivalries, team nicknames, in-arena giveaways, marketing via widespread editorial coverage, stylish uniforms, an annual All-American list for top black players, an annual black All-Star team, and long road trips.
“Social Life In Colored America, III. A Dinner at the Loendi Club, Pittsburg. Photograph from life.” | The Crisis – A Record of the Darker Races, Vol. 8, No. 4, August 1914, Whole No. 46, pages 182-183 | 1914
Loendi Big Five vs Commonwealth Big Five basketball game advertisement | 1923 | Reproduction
Ticket for St. Patrick’s Day basketball game between all-black Loendi Club and all-white Majestics of McKeesport, in Pittsburgh, PA | Ca. 1917 | Reproduction | Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
[RK] & Son, Pittsburgh, Pa. | Union Labor Temple, Webster Avenue and Epiphany Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., containing a basketball court used extensively by Pittsburgh's early black teams | Ca. 1910 | Postcard
Cumberland Posey, Jr.’s father was president of the Loendi Social & Literary Club, considered the nation’s most prestigious private club for African Americans. In 1913, the club sponsored a spinoff of the Monticello basketball team called the Loendi Big Five, which, with Posey as its star player, would go on to win four straight Colored Basketball World’s Championships, from 1919-1923. They played sold out home games at the 5,000-capacity Union Labor Temple. In 1924, the Pittsburgh Courier called Loendi, “the best colored basket ball team ever organized.
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