Harlem’s Conrad Norman, 1908

Negro Basketball New York Girls Cole Sisters Harlem Repro POSTCARD#200Conrad Norman, the Jamaican-born founder of the Alpha Physical Culture Club of Harlem, America’s first African American athletic club at the turn of the 20th century in 1904.

Before the NBA, the Black Fives, basketball teams formed shortly after the game’s invention in 1891. The club’s basketball team, the Alpha Big Five, became nationally famous during the 1910s while sticking faithfully to the strictest amateur ideals. But the times were changing. The Alphas’ version of pure sport for its own sake was threatened by new black fives with visions of play-for-pay, led by team owners like fellow Caribbean immigrant Robert Douglas.

Conrad hoped to address rampant lung disease among blacks living in Harlem and New York City’s overcrowded tenements by providing proper exercise facilities they could use without bias.

The club’s basketball team, the Alpha Big Five, became nationally famous during the 1910s while sticking faithfully to the strictest amateur ideals.

Negro-Basketball-New-York-Girls-Cole-Sisters-Harlem-Repro-POSTCARD200Norman can be seen in the photo of the New York Girls of Harlem, a team he coached. The Cole girls played as former stars of the Wadliegh High School for Girls in Harlem in 1911.

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