A Black Cultural Fiction?

An interesting item in today's Toronto Star:

Eric Williams was showing off a beautiful leather jacket in the Raptors' dressing room at the Air Canada Centre on Monday, a jacket packed with colourful logos from a series of basketball teams, including the Newark Eagles, Harlem Knights, Baltimore Crabs, West Philly Dancers and Cleveland Ebonies, the latter complete with a nattily attired fellow in a 1920's-style zoot suit.

His company, Eric Williams Apparel, was hoping to launch a line of merchandise celebrating what he called "Black League Basketball," he explained, adding the jacket was a prototype, something to bring the league, which he said existed from 1920-40, into the public eye.

"We have to understand where we came from," he said.

But there's little to understand here, except, maybe, that money trumps history. The league and teams, say several basketball historians, never existed.

The article goes on to offer compelling testimonials from many sport and cultural historians against the existence of the league.

Did such a league exist, minus the ability, desire or wherewithal to archive its existence to the satisfaction of future historians (though one wonders where the logos came from)? Or is Williams an unwitting pawn in a deceitful move to cash in on nostalgia and urban sportswear? Or is he equally complicit, and the mainstream media did a good job of uncovering the story?


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