Basketball History Focused Black Fives Foundation Expands and Reinforces Its Mission and Goals

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Public Charity Leverages Strategic Partnerships and First Grant to Preserve, Showcase, Teach, and Honor Pre-NBA African American Basketball History

Jerseys from the inaugural Black Fives Collection by '47.

Among a variety of styles in the inaugural Black Fives Collection by '47, these jerseys represent seven vintage African American basketball teams that pre-dated the NBA, going back to the 1910s.

The NBPA Foundation fulfills the philanthropic vision of the NBPA and its players. We are honored by this recognition and support from such an intrinsically important organization.

The Black Fives Foundation, a Greenwich, Connecticut-based non-profit whose mission is to research, preserve, showcase, and teach the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball while honoring its pioneers, is expanding and reinforcing its mission and goals with solid momentum from strategic partnerships and its first grant, reports Claude Johnson, the organization’s founder and executive director.

This summer the Foundation received its first outside grant, an invitation-only award from the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Foundation. “The NBPA Foundation fulfills the philanthropic vision of the NBPA and its players,” Johnson states. “We are honored by this recognition and support from such an intrinsically important organization.”

Earlier this year, the Black Fives Foundation established a groundbreaking multi-year licensing partnership that brings together its one-of-a-kind authentic vintage sports intellectual property with ’47, one of today’s leading premium sports lifestyle brands. In June, ‘47 launched its inaugural Black Fives Collection of apparel, headwear, and accessories, supported by unique design collaborations with industry leading urban boutiques as well as events in New York City, London, Chicago, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. The Black Fives Collection by ’47 is the first retail sports apparel line ever produced under license from a public charity.

These advances help the Foundation improve its archival preservation, initiate its oral history efforts, modernize its video, audio, and computer systems, and engage external resources in specialized areas like fundraising, grant writing, social media management, descendant outreach, and volunteer coordination.

At the beginning of 2015, they teamed up with the Brooklyn Nets to visit schools and community organizations as part of the NBA franchise's Brooklyn Nets Assist educational engagement program. "We discuss early African American basketball pioneers from specific neighborhoods, their accomplishments, and the life lessons they offer, such as teamwork, problem solving, collaboration, and finding common ground, as well as the business models that were used," says Johnson.

In 2014, Johnson guest curated the highly acclaimed, first-ever Black Fives museum exhibition at the New York Historical Society, displaying nearly 300 rare and important artifacts from the Black Fives Foundation's comprehensive archive that goes back to the early 1900s.

Now, the Foundation is developing two related long-term initiatives. The first goal is to create scale with its educational programming. “One person can only visit but so many schools in a given time,” Johnson explains. He believes that a digital, interactive, content-rich, downloadable school curriculum accompanied by a “push-based” mobile app would resonate with students as well as teachers. Its second goal is to create a turnkey historical museum exhibition that is modular and freight-ready. “This traveling exhibition will visit colleges, schools, and museums as well as basketball tournaments, camps, and clinics in the communities where the original Black Fives Era teams once played,” says Johnson. “We will partner on these initiatives with brands whose target audiences overlap ours and whose character aligns with the 'get it done' archetype embodied in our trademarked 'Make History Now' slogan.”

About The Black Fives Foundation:

The Greenwich, CT-based Black Fives Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 public charity. It researches, preserves, showcases, and teaches the pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball while honoring its pioneers and their descendants. The Black Fives Foundation also maintains a a renowned historical archive and a distinctive portfolio of intellectual property.

The Black Fives were dozens of all-black basketball teams that played before the formation and racial integration of the NBA, from 1904 through 1950, a period known as the Black Fives Era. “Fives” referred to the number of starting players in a basketball lineup. African American squads were known as Black Fives. For more information, please visit

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Jendayi Luck

Claude Johnson
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