The Home of the Rattlers

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Knowing the History and why it is Important.

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?


  1. I feel as though more students know the history than you may think. I can honestly say the majority of my friends that attend FAM can spit the history of the university like they're reading it from a book.

    I chose FAMU because it's the best. The family atmosphere, the quality of the programs and the life here is just amazing. There is no place on Earth like FAMU and I couldn't have picked a better school to attend. There is a decline in enrollment across the board (PWIs and HBCUs). People just can't afford to attend college. We also come from a "get rich quick or die trying" type of generation so a lot of people don't see the point. Unfortunate but true.

  2. I feel you on this i also believe that students do not know the history of FAMU. What most students know now a days is when the moon or the edge is going to be free before 12.

  3. The sate of the black population would not be good if HBCU's were to dissappear. At HBCU's blacks are able to receive eduaction and attention that would otherwise have been neglected at other schools. We learn the truth about out history. We learn that hundreds of years ago we were able to succeed at the hardest tasks and it gives us courage. Here at FAMU I've met blacks from all over the world, but we all have something in common. We come from ancestors who were at one time very powerful and together we are all realizing our potential..

    When I first came to FAMU I picked it out just because my father graduated from this same school. Well, I also decided to come here because the environment just felt right for me. I felt I fit in here before I ever met anyone. When I was little I loved to come to homecomings and see the older people dressed up and looking cute and cheering on the football team.

    In the past two years the enrollment has actually increased a little, but I think the enrollment at HBCU's has been declining because while those of us that are here know what the schools have to offer, our youth doesn't quite know. They don't know the education they could receive here. They don't realize the long lasting friends they could make. They don't know about those professors they'll never forget. I have a cousin whose graduating in a year and he wants to go to University of Miami. It's a good school, but he wants to go there because that is where his white friends are going. He doesn't realize that there are people at HBCU's with the same skin color as him that would help him succeed much more than at a school where he'd be in the 5% of blacks.

  4. I agree with you Angelica.. that some know. more of the older students who actually come to graduate known and appreciate the history. Even though theres a decline in enrollment period, its our schools that seem to feel it the most. On top of low enrollmnent, our funding is being cut as well.

  5. Damn..I learned something and I dont even go there!

  6. In reference to mizstoosexy, I feel the same way. Intergration opened so many doors, but at the same time, its as if some black people feel the HBCU education is not adequate. They rather be that minortiy at a larger, PW institution.

  7. I really enjoyed your post. Very well written.

    My reason for attending FAMU is because my entire life I've attended predominately white schools. I wanted a change. I wanted to learn about my history, Black history.
    I feel as though less black people are attending HBCUs because for one it has to do with the financial crisis many HBCUs are in. I also feel that many people know in corporate America you will not deal with all black people sometimes you will get lucky if there's at least 5 black people in your department. However many people chose these reason not to attend. I recall someone saying to me that we no longer live in those times where schools were segregated why not take advantage of the opportunity to be able to integrate. As good as that may sound I've been doing that my whole life and if I could do again despite all the financial problems FAMU has put me through. I would still step foot on the seven high hills and be a diehart rattler because if there's one thing I learned at FAMU, its how to survive.

  8. Ebony is absolutely correct, if there's one thing that you learn at FAMU, that's how to survive. But back to the question at hand: HBCUs have a decline in enrollment because there's a decline across the board. The problem is getting black students to understand that they've been brainwashed by Eurocentric thinking. I can't tell how many people have think you'll get a better education at a PWI just because it's a PWI.

    I did a research paper about three years ago about whether it is best for black students to attend an HBCU or a PWI. The results showed overwhelmingly that it's better for blacks to attend an HBCU because of the what they learn about themselves, the smaller classes, the strict environment (because the professors know they have to be that much better), etc.

    Now the problem is not talking about the HBCU experience, but it is about why don't alumni give back to the universities in order to help it succeed just that much better. That is one reason our athletic programs can't excel, we can't offer as many scholarships to those high achieving black students, and the campuses look like crap (of course FAMU has the best campus). That is the problem at hand.

    I remember when I was doing some recruiting for FAMU at my old high school, and the guidance counselor (a FAMU grad) told me that students said they didn't wanna go to FAMU for whatever reason (basically they thought FSU was better SIKE!). She told them, "First of all FSU and those other schools don't and won't care about you the way FAMU will. FAMU is the place that will give you a chance and help you be the best you can be regardless of your test scores." And with that said I'm out. Peace.

  9. I agree with Marlon and if we lose our HBCUs, Black people wouldn't have a chance to learn about their culture. Only someone that looks like us can teach us anything about us and we believe it(I know that was one of those sentences, but read it slowly three times and you'll understand:-/).

    I came to FAMU because my cousin graduated from here and I looked up to her; and it didn't hurt that my brother was also attending. When I got here, I learned so much that had nothing to do with academics because of the culture that FAMU has. My professors were some of the most nuturing people in the world, almost like parents.

    I think there's a decline at every institution. Like an earlier post, we're in a microwave society, everyone wants things quickly and the thought of being in one place for several years is just not an option these days.

  10. I think the future of education would be incredibly bleak without the contributions of HBCUs. I agree with every comment made on this blog.When I decided to attend FAMU I revieved mixed reactions from many."Why would you want to go there, your so smart you could go anywhere?" "Your grades are so good why not go to USF, FSU, or FIU?" I took one look at those campuses, felt the atmosphere and knew I would NEVER set foot on any of them. The skeptics were right, I could have went anywhere, but I choose the best and only place for me. The lessons learned here at FAMU are not only valuable for my career, but necessary for life. I have learned more about myself and my people from attending FAMU. From the professors to the quality of education, there is no place better. We work HARD here at FAMU, we are not the bottom of the barrel picks, and all of us do not find the easiest way to get the best grade. FAMU graduates compete with thousands of graduates of predominantly white instituios and we surpass them in many areas of our careers. We learn not to de defined because of our skin colors, but to work harder because of it. We are accomplished and worldly. The lessons I learn are not only vital for my career and life after FAM, but necessary for living as an African American Woman today. I would be half of who I am if I did my education any where else. I think enrollment for HBCUs have declined because of the unfair treatment, and past prejudices against historically black universities. We have still have a long way to go. Rattler for life!

  11. What an excellent post, Ajonelle. You have done such a good job writing this post and engaging others in the conversation. This is a skill that PR professionals must have in today's marketplace. I am especially impressed that the people who posted on this blog took their time and made intelligent, thoughtful comments. They didn't just post-and-blog for the sake of points.

    I am not a product of a Historically Black College or University. The FAMU environment has been a real eye-opener and culture shock for me. I have always known about and embraced my culture, history and heritage. But I had never worked in an environment where the majority were people of color.

    From a business perspective, HBCUs are facing declining numbers because many of them are not keeping up with current technology and other advances that have been made in the education industry. Fortunately, FAMU is one of the few HBCUs that continues to work hard to offer relevant and innovative educational curricula to its students. I think this is what will keep the doors of this institution open.

    HBCUs are not for all black college students. But those who make the choice to "get their knowledge from an all-black college", I think they often come away from the experience with more than just a degree. The HBCU experience often imbues the student with the confidence and support and opportunities to go into the world and become an outstanding citizen.

  12. I graduated from a historically black high school so I felt like I wanted to do something different, see new types of people and experience different things. I made the decision to attend Florida International University. I spent an unhappy year and a half there. While there I realized that, for me, there was something missing and I decided to transfer to FAM. Now that I have completed my first semester here at FAMU, I have realized that that something that was missing for me was the sense and feeling of community, history and family. I chose FAMU, not only because it was family tradition (my mama was born in FAMU hospital aka foote hilyer admin LOL), but because I felt like I would be surrounded by progressive minded black folk who had a desire to educate themselves to in turn educate their community. I chose FAMU because I knew that the instructors would hold me accountable for my actions (IE mission class... that attendance policy almost got me!), and that the instructors really cared about seeing their students succeed. Also, Fam had more of a familial feel and I didn't just feel like a number.

    I'm sure that there are a number of reasons that enrollment has declined in HBCU's. I think people have the misconception that the education received and their experience (as far as gettin net checks on time, registration, etc) will be inferior and that it's expected of them to attend and HBCU because they are black (i'm sure this isn't everyone, but I know many people with this thought process).

    although HBCUS's do have their faults, I couldn't imagine where the African American, black community would be without them. These were the schools that were giving us the education and training that we needed when the other schools wouldn't. And to forget, neglect, or disregard these institutions would be to the detriment of our people.

    oh and I agree Jess.... we're so much better than cookman! LOL


Which FAMU Center are you more likely to use??