The team was organized by Rube Foster, known as the father of Negro League Baseball, who was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. Including the seasons spent playing in independent leagues, the team operated for 42 seasons, one of the longest-standing clubs in Black baseball’s history.
The team began play as the American Giants in 1911, initially part of independent leagues. Some of the most notable players in the team’s history were on the 1917 club, before they helped found the Negro National League. That squad featured greats such as Bruce Petway, John Henry "Pop" Lloyd, Pete Hill, Frank Wickware, and "Cannonball" Dick Redding.