Skip to main content

African American Comedy Exhibition Basketball Teams Collection

Identifier: BKP 671

Scope and Contents

This collection consists chiefly of programs and other printed material related to touring African American exhibition comedy basketball teams that focused on showmanship, theatrics, and entertainment. The programs range from the 1950s through the 1980s and typically contain pictures, statistics, and biographies about players, coaches, and other team personnel in addition to team histories, other stories, and advertisements. Teams represented in the collection include the Harlem Clowns, the Harlem Magicians, the Harlem Diplomats, the Harlem Wizards, the Harlem Stars, and the Harlem Satellites.


  • Creation: 1955-1984


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

The famous Harlem Globetrotters, originally based in Chicago, pioneered basketball as entertainment when they incorporated aspects of showmanship, trickery, and humor into their style of play. Before the 1950s, the Globetrotters were one of the best basketball teams in the country and their amusing antics to entertain the crowd helped keep interest during lopsided games against undermanned opponents. The popularity of the Globetrotters spawned many competitors who toured the country playing similar comedic basketball. After the highest levels of professional basketball—including the National Basketball Association—integrated during the 1950s, touring African American basketball teams lost many of their top players to formerly white teams, at which point most teams began to focus more on entertainment. Basketball comedy and showmanship has remained popular, and many teams have extensively toured the country and the world.

The Harlem Clowns, founded by Albert “Runt” Pullins, were one of the earliest Globetrotter competitors. A graduate of Chicago’s Wendell Phillips High School, Pullins joined the Globetrotters in the late 1920s but left to form his own touring team in 1934. Variously called the New York Globetrotters and the Broadway Clowns, Pullins adopted the name Harlem Clowns in 1950. The Clowns continued to tour until 1983.

Another well-known touring team was similarly led by former Globetrotters. Marques Haynes had starred for the Globetrotters for eight years, before leaving to form his own team in 1953. Originally called the Marques Haynes All-Stars, the team soon rebranded as the Harlem Magicians for the 1954-55 season. Another former Globetrotter star, Reece “Goose” Tatum, joined the Magicians for several years in the mid-1950s. Haynes continued touring with the Magicians until the early 1970s when he returned to the Globetrotters for a few seasons. Following his second stint with the Globetrotters he played with several teams including a reconstituted version of the Harlem Magicians

Many different African American exhibition squads, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century, copied the showmanship and the comedic style of teams like the Globetrotters, the Clowns, and the Magicians. These touring teams would travel widely playing against all levels of competition. Such teams included the Harlem Diplomats, the Harlem Satellites, the Harlem Wizards, the Harlem Stars, and many others.


.5 Cubic Feet (1 document case (letter size))

Language of Materials



Arranged by team name, then chronologically

Related Materials

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556