Washington 12 Streeters
Location: Washington, D.C.
Home Court: True Reformers Hall
Nickname: “Twelfth Street Colored Y.M.C.A.”
Colors: Team Red, Slate Gray, Ivory
Manager: Edwin B. Henderson
It was the first such team from Washington, D.C. that became nationally famous, and played a critical role in the development of the sport among African Americans.
After learning basketball in a 1904 summer class at Harvard University, black gym teacher Edwin B. Henderson became the first to introduce the game to African Americans on a widespread basis when he taught the sport to students in Washington, DC’s segregated colored public school system.
In 1909 Henderson used his former students to create a new team, sponsored by the local Twelfth Street Colored Y.M.C.A.
The “12 Streeters” featured former Amherst College All-American football halfback Edward Gray, Hudson Oliver, formerly with the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, and Henderson himself. They won the 1909-10 Colored Basketball World Championship title with an undefeated season.
All the players were current or former students at Howard University, which didn’t have a varsity basketball team yet; Gray and Oliver even attended medical school there while playing for the Colored Y team, and would later become respected surgeons.
Henderson, known affectionately as Dr. Henderson, would dedicate his life to physical education and civil rights causes, and was inducted in 1974 as a charter member of the Black Athletes Hall of Fame alongside Joe Louis, Leroy “Satchel” Paige, Bill Russell, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali.