On Friday February 24th, HHS1987’s Terrell Thomas caught up with Claude Johnson, the President and Executive Director of the Black Fives Foundation to gain some knowledge on the Black Fives and the history of the African-American basketball pioneers with the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
The Black Fives Foundation commemorates the contributions of trailblazers who created their own Black basketball league and paved the way for the integration of the NBA. This February, the Hawks have teamed with the foundation to bring awareness to Atlanta’s connection to African-American professional hoops from 1904-1950, a time known as the “Black Fives Era.” Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities played an important role during the era: Morehouse College won 42 consecutive games and claimed back-to-back national negro collegiate championships; and, in 1950, Clark (Atlanta) University’s Hank DeZonie was one of four Black players to begin playing in the NBA, signing with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks – a team that eventually became the Atlanta Hawks.
During our interview, Claude Johnson broke down the history of the African-American basketball players from the early 1900’s to present day. Johnson shared his knowledge on how games were played in the 1900’s, and he shared information on how the game that was back then, has now become the NBA. Not only did Claude Johnson inform us on the history of the game with the Black Fives, he also had props. Johnson showed us what a basketball looked like in the early 1900’s and he explained how the game was played. Players would have to unlace the leather ball and inflate the ball using air from their lungs. If the ball was still flat, they had to unlace the ball and try again. Before concluding the interview, Claude Johnson explained whats next for the Black Fives Foundation and how people can stay informed with their movement.
The interview was conducted by Terrell Thomas (Eldorado). The interview was shot and edited by Danny Digital.
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