Our current blog series is focused on HBCUs which we will examine through the lens of the Amistad Research Center’s collection of school newspapers. For this post, I decided to look at the newspapers of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, commonly known as FAMU, which provided an interesting look into the school’s culture and values over the years. The university was founded on October 3, 1887 as the State Normal School for Colored Students (later renamed Florida A&M College in 1909) in Tallahassee, Florida. It’s fascinating to go back to old newspapers to see how times have changed (opinions regarding civil rights and black economics) or how they haven’t (our love of football).
The first newspaper I examined was a 1926 edition of The College Arms. Most of the articles are focused on contemporary issues rather than specific school events. For example, there was an article about the failure of prohibition in which the author noted that boys and girls were drinking more than ever before. Said defiance of prohibition violated the “spirit of obedience to the law.” The newspaper also included an article which compared football to a great battle and a brutal game that develops character in men—something not for the weak. Additionally, there was an article about the need for social services for the poor around Florida.
By the early 1930s, the school newspaper then changed its name to The Weekly News and began to focus more on school events, culture, and its alumni. The school is referred to as Famcee, which reflected the school’s current name of Florida A&M College. The October 16, 1931 edition of The Weekly News had an article that discussed the accreditation of the college’s hospital as a school to train nurses thanks to the new annex. As an agricultural and mechanical college, there was an article in the December 4, 1931 edition that argued the benefits of agriculture as an independent livelihood (“returning to nature’s bosom”) for African Americans who had been displaced from factory jobs by returning white soldiers.
It was interesting to read about some of the events taking place on campus as well, from the annual week of prayer to Rattlers football games against other HBCUs such as Morris Brown. On January 13, 1932, Langston Hughes visited the campus for an event advertised as an “evening of enjoyment of poetry and its relation to the background of the life of the Negro people.”
The newspaper was renamed as The Famcean in 1933 and largely continued with the same format as before. One of my favorite articles was a front page article in the November 1951 issue which profiled the Marching 100, the school’s famed marching band. Its success was attributed to hard work and skill under the leadership of Mr. William P. Foster. Years ago, I was able to watch the Marching 100 perform at the Battle of the Bands in Atlanta, Georgia which I greatly enjoyed. Essentially, I learned that the band’s excellence spans decades and decades.
In October 1953, Florida A&M College became Florida A&M University, FAMU, which was heralded on the front page. The newspaper would then of course eventually change its name to The Famuan to reflect that.
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