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*On this date in 1939, the "Harlem Rens" became the first all Black pro basketball team to win a World Championship.
Harlem Renaissance Big Five, one of the most successful all-Black professional basketball teams in the 1920s and 1930s, added grace and style to the game of American basketball. Robert L. Douglass who was a native of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and a former professional basketball player with the New York Spartans created the Harlem Renaissance Big Five team in 1922.
The team gained their name from their playing location, the Renaissance Casino ballroom in Harlem, New York, where they dazzled fans with their innovative style of play. The Rens were one of the few all-Black, traveling professional basketball teams of that era. Formed five years before the Harlem Globetrotters, the Rens provided African-American men with the opportunity to compete against white athletes on an equal footing. They toured the country competing against Black and white teams, and in the process, compiled one of the most impressive winning streaks in history.
In 1934, the Rens won 88 consecutive games, and between 1932 and 1936, they won 473 games and lost only 49. Three years later, they won the first World Basketball Tournament held in Chicago, Illinois. In 1963, the entire team was inducted into the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame, including Charles T. "Tarzan" Cooper, John "Casey" Holt, Clarence "Fats" Jenkins, James "Pappy" Ricks, Eyre "Bruiser" Satch, William "Wee Willie" Smith, and William J. "Bill" Yancey.
University of California Los Angeles
Center for African American Studies
Cultural Studies in the African Diaspora Project
Murray Hall, Room 2326
Los Angeles, CA 90095