12 Streeter logo

The official logo of the Washington 12 Streeters.

Location: Washington, D.C.
Home Court:
True Reformers Hall
Nickname:
“Twelfth Street Colored Y.M.C.A.”
Colors:
Team Red, Slate Gray, Ivory
Manager:
Edwin B. Henderson

The Washington 12 Streeters were one of America’s earliest all-black basketball teams, playing a critical role in the development of the sport among African Americans.

Washington 12 Streeters photo collage

Washington 12 Streeters photo collage.

After learning basketball in a 1904 summer class at Harvard University, black gym teacher Edwin B. Henderson became the first to introduce the game to African Americans on a widespread basis when he taught the sport to students in Washington, DC’s segregated colored public school system.

In 1909 Henderson used his former students to create a new team, sponsored by the local Twelfth Street Colored Y.M.C.A.

The “12 Streeters” featured former Amherst College All-American football halfback Edward Gray, Hudson Oliver, formerly with the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, and Henderson himself. They won the 1909-10 Colored Basketball World Championship title with an undefeated season.

All the players were current or former students at Howard University, which didn’t have a varsity basketball team yet; Gray and Oliver even attended medical school there while playing for the Colored Y team, and would later become respected surgeons.

Henderson, known as the “Grandfather of Black Basketball,” would dedicate his life to physical education and civil rights causes, and was inducted in 1974 as a charter member of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame alongside Joe Louis, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Bill Russell, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali. In 2013, he was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.