Photo credits: The New York RBA
There was once a professional basketball team that consisted completely of black players, known as the New York Renaissance. The team was also known as the Renaissance Big Five and the Rens. The ball club played in the Harlem district of Manhattan, New York.
Founded on February 13, 1923, in connection with the Renaissance Casino and Ballroom, the club was the brainchild of Robert “Bob” Douglas. The Casino and Ballroom, located at the corner of 138th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem, was a recreational institution, which contained an auditorium. Basketball games were held on the auditorium’s basketball court, which was home to the Big Five.
Following each game, there was a dance party held to celebrate. Following the Rens’ success, black basketball began to shift its attention away from amateur teams and toward professional teams. To begin with, the Rens focused their attention on the Harlem neighborhood. During the late 1920s, as attendance began to dwindle, the team was increasingly often seen playing games out of state on road tours —- showcasing its players around the country in order to raise funds.
The Renaissance is also the subject of the documentary On the Shoulders of Giants, which was released in 2011.