Skip to main content
Month Day
February 13

First all-Black professional basketball team organized

On February 13, 1923, the New York Renaissance, the first all-Black professional basketball team, is organized. The Renaissance, commonly called the Rens, become one of the dominant teams of the 1920s and 1930s.

The team's founder was Robert L. Douglas, whose primary objective was to give New York City's male, Black athletes opportunities to better themselves. In February 1923, Douglas struck an agreement with William Roach, a Harlem-based real estate developer who owned the New Renaissance Ballroom and Casino, and the Rens were born.

With Black players barred from professional basketball leagues, the Rens barnstormed throughout the country, often competing against all-white teams. 

Along with owning the team, Douglas coached it from its inception through its last game in 1949. Douglas was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor in 1972. One of the greatest players in the sport's history recognized his impact.

"I tried to spread the word [about Douglas] with my book and documentary, On the Shoulder of Giants," Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told The Undefeated in 2017. "I did both to make people aware of the Rens' contribution to basketball because it's important that we honor those pioneers who made this billion-dollar industry possible."

The team played its first game November 3, 1923, winning 28-22 against the Collegiate Five—an all-white team.

"The Rens' immediate success and notoriety helped shift the presence of African-American sports from the amateur level to the professional level," wrote "They were able to compete with and even defeat the original Boston Celtics, who were one of the dominant professional white teams during that era."

In the 1932-33 season, the Rens, led by future Hall of Famers William "Pop" Gates and Charles "Tarzan" Cooper, won 88 consecutive games.

In 1939—seven years before the launch of the NBA—the Rens won the World Professional Basketball tournament. In 1949, the Rens, then based in Dayton, Ohio, played their last game as part of the racially integrated National Basketball League. By that time, the NBA was up and running, and interest in barnstorming basketball had waned.

In 1963, the Rens team was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. 


FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.


William and Mary proclaimed joint sovereigns of Britain

Following Britain’s bloodless Glorious Revolution, Mary, the daughter of the deposed king, and William of Orange, her husband, are proclaimed joint sovereigns of Great Britain under Britain’s new Bill of Rights. William, a Dutch prince, married Mary, the daughter of the future more

First Medal of Honor action

The earliest military action to be awarded a Medal of Honor is performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict. Near Apache Pass, in southeastern Arizona, Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go to the more

Galileo arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy

On February 13, 1633, Italian philosopher, astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei arrives in Rome to face charges of heresy for advocating Copernican theory, which holds that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Galileo officially faced the Roman Inquisition in April of that more

League of Nations recognizes perpetual Swiss neutrality

The League of Nations, the international organization formed at the peace conference at Versailles in the wake of World War I, recognizes the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland on February 13, 1920. Switzerland was a loose confederation of German-, French-, and Italian-speaking more

Johnson approves Operation Rolling Thunder

President Lyndon B. Johnson decides to undertake the sustained bombing of North Vietnam that he and his advisers have been contemplating for a year. Called Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing campaign was designed to interdict North Vietnamese transportation routes in the more

Downhill skier Hermann Maier crashes in Olympics

Austrian ski racer Hermann Maier makes one of the most dramatic crashes in skiing history when he catapults 30 feet in the air, lands on his helmet and rams through two safety fences at an estimated 80 miles per hour on February 13, 1998. Amazingly, Maier suffered just minor more

Teddy Roosevelt discusses America’s race problem

On February 13, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt delivers a speech to the New York City Republican Club. Roosevelt had just won reelection, and in this speech, he discussed the country’s current state of race relations and his plan for improving them. In 1905, many white more

ASCAP is founded

“If music did not pay, it would be given up.” So wrote Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes in a landmark Supreme Court decision in 1917. Holmes wasn’t referring to musicians themselves in that statement, but to places of business in which copyrighted musical works could be more

Serial killer strikes in Colorado

A 21-year-old woman named Mary accepts a ride from a man in the ski town of Breckenridge, Colorado, and is raped and severely beaten with a claw hammer. The attacker, Tom Luther, was traced through his truck and apprehended. Luther told a psychiatrist thatMary reminded him of his more

Chernenko becomes general secretary of Soviet Communist Party

Following the death of Yuri Andropov four days earlier, Konstantin Chernenko takes over as the general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, the ruling position in the Soviet Union. Chernenko was the last of the Russian communist “hard-liners” prior to the ascension to power more

Firebombing of Dresden

On the evening of February 13, 1945, a series of Allied firebombing raids begins against the German city of Dresden, reducing the “Florence of the Elbe” to rubble and flames, and killing roughly 25,000 people. Despite the horrendous scale of destruction, it arguably accomplished more