Classes of the State Normal College for Colored Students began on October 3, 1887 with 15 students and two instructors.
“In 1904, a very determined young black woman, Mary McLeod Bethune, opened the Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls with $1.50, faith in God and five little girls for students.” (That is the very first sentence of the Bethune-Cookman history page.)
What began in 1925 as a regular football game between two HBCUs, the annual FAMU vs. Bethune-Cookman showdown has slowly transformed into one of the oldest football rivalries in the state of Florida. So large in fact that a whole weekend of festivities surrounds this game, known as the Florida Classic. Since it made its home in Tampa in 1978, and then in Orlando in 1996, more than 1.4 million fans have flocked together in this time-honored game of friendly competition. The Florida Classic has become the largest football game between two HBCUs, surpassing the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern and is the top attended game in our division.
However, what I see, that most usually don't think about or care to understand, is there is something that unites us in competition. There is a historical significance to each game we play. Yes, FAMU might be larger, (and better) and the more-known HBCU (did I mention the better,) but what are we if we do not know our history? Yes, to some this is just a football game, a chance to get away for the weekend and eat fried fish and sausages from vendors. But what is under-said, is the fact that before integration was forced, before Darryl Hill played Clemson University in front of 50,000 all-white fans, before we were allowed into that Alabama stadium that had been “no coloreds allowed” for so long, there was “Our Game.” “Our Band.” “Our Tradition.” .
I have always loved football. And music. And food. And well competition. And being in the midst of black people having a good time. Getting along, enjoying each others and showing pride in one another. But even more so, I love that feeling of unity and being in the presence of great history. I love sitting outside FAMU football practices, seeing the old men lean against the fence, talking about how it was in their days, knowing the players by name and their families, telling stories of how they use to pack up and drive for hours, following the team, and cooking so they could feed them when they could. HBCU’s are SO essential to our community. And its time like these, when we recognize another Florida Classic (which in recent years has been aired by ESPN, showing yet another milestone) we celebrate how far we’ve come and remember where we came from.
HBCUs are SO essential to our community. However, there is a rapid decline in enrollment to black schools. Integration has paved the way for so many, however it has had some effects as well. What would the state of education become if our black schools were to suddenly disappear? Why did you choose FAMU as your college of choice and why do you think there is a decline in HBCU enrollment these past few years?