The Scholastics | January 2021

Just like Major League Baseball, professional basketball was segregated in the first half of the 20th century to include only white players. For baseball, this meant the creation of the Negro baseball league featuring legendary players like Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and Jackie Robinson before the racial barrier was broken and the league was integrated. For African-American basketball players, this time was known as the Black Fives Era, a reference to the five starting players and the numerous Black teams that popped up in this time. In 1915, the Pittsburgh Scholastics was one of those teams created by the Scholastic Athletic Association, an African-American athletic club in Pittsburgh.

The Scholastics were organized by Hunter Johnson, a local athlete who previously trained Carnegie Tech and Pitt football and track teams. He was a leader in conditioning and physical fitness, most known for training long-jumper and Pittsburgh native DeHart Hubbard, the first Black gold medalist at the 1924 Olympics.

Johnson chose Pittsburgh’s Hill District, rich in African-American history as HQ for the Scholastics, a team made up of Black athletes who were current or former students at local high schools and colleges. Legends like Frank “Frankie” Johnson, Chris Dorsey, Ray Anderson, and Gerald Allen, some only high schoolers, helped turn the team into one of the best black fives in Pittsburgh before becoming part of the Loendi Big Five and developing into a Black basketball dynasty following World War I.

If the Scholastics are any example, Pittsburgh’s sports legacy runs deep and has a diverse history known through the country and indeed the world.

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