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On America

On America: Claude Johnson on The Black Fives with Laura Washington

May 31, 2022

As the 2022 NBA playoffs ramped up, historian Claude Johnson joined The Center for Fiction for a rich conversation on an unsung history of the early days of basketball. In The Black Fives: The Epic Story of Basketball’s Forgotten Era, Johnson braids together the stories of dozens of teams—then often called “fives”—of African American players, founded before the racial integration of all-white professional leagues in the 1950s.

Laura Washington, nonprofit executive and Board member of The Center for Fiction, joined Johnson in conversation about this critical lost history. This conversation is a must-see for basketball fans and history buffs alike, challenging our notions of the sport and preserving a crucial history for generations of fans to come.

In Conversation

  • Claude Johnson (C) Janette Beckman - Claire Fennell

    Claude Johnson

    Claude Johnson

    Claude Johnson is a historian and founder of the Black Fives Foundation. He has a BS in civil engineering and economics from Carnegie Mellon and an MS in mechanical engineering from Stanford. During a 20-year career in corporate America, Johnson held management and executive positions at IBM, American Express, NBA Properties, Nike, Phat Farm, and Benetton Sportsystem. He left to become a stay-at-home dad to his three sons, two of whom are now Division I college football players (the third is a Division I high school basketball recruit). He lives in Greenwich, Connecticut.

    Photo Credit: Janette Beckman

  • LWashington photo - Claire Fennell

    Laura Washington

    Laura Washington

    Laura Washington is Chief Communications Officer & Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at the New-York Historical Society. As an executive in the philanthropy and nonprofit sectors, for more than 15 years, Washington has guided organizations to greater visibility and impact. She is passionate about the potential of narratives to empower and strengthen communities and support social justice.