One Band. One Sound: An HBCU Tradition

by Dr. Jacquie Hood Martin, Ph.D, freelance contributor, speaker, and radio host

The historical black college and university system is both a pillar and an icon in many communities around the country. The Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher education in the United States that were established before 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African Americancommunity.[1] They have always allowed admission to students of all races. Most were created in the aftermath of the American Civil War and are in the former slave states, although a few notable exceptions exist.

There are 107 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions, community and four-year institutions, medical and law schools.[2][3]

Although many students and alumna return for a variety of reasons, it is clear a sense of pride, nostalgia, and commitment to helping others succeed is top the list.

Several HBCU Alumni share their insight and experience.

What is your history to the Bayou Classic?

It’s a time of fellowship and participation in a historical African American gathering to support higher education, black leadership, black community and athleticism. This is one of many showcases that allow African American events to be center stage with a national audience during a time when many families are together for the holidays.

Why do you go every year?

To celebrate and reconnect with alums, family and friends. It’s also a time to support black businesses, explore career opportunities, support HBCUs and black culture.

What is the atmosphere like in the stadium?

The Bayou Classic is like a family reunion and business expo occurring at the same time. Great energy, competition and interest from various facets of the population.

Why do people really go to Bayou Classic…the game or half-time show?

People go to the Bayou Classic for the experience….the game and half time show go hand in hand. Our HBCU athletes have an opportunity to display their talents on a national stage with many households tuning in to support them and the half show is an opportunity to display African American creativity, skill, precision and musical prowess in a way that is unique to our culture. The half time show gets the hype but the experience in the stands watching the game is the catalyst for the overall quality of the experience.

Not only is it like a family reunion for others it’s a family experience one gentleman shared ‘My wife and I attended regularly for about 10 years, stopped about 4 years ago because the commercials would drown out the band during the games. It really detracted from the whole experience.’ He recently started attending again last year explaining the ‘winner of the game typically goes to represent the west in the SWAC championship, and that the band will not disappoint!’

The attendance at this years 2016 game boasted an official attendance just shy of 63,000 attendees. Whether people come simply for the halftime show and the battle of the bands, or come for the fellowship, the career opportunities, to support black businesses or creativity, the Bayou Classic will continue to be a Thanksgiving weekend tradition.

  • Dr. Jacquie Hood Martin, PhD is a former Vice President of Academic & Student Affairs at a Predominantly Black Institution (PBI), Chicago, IL
  • Gary Johnson, freelance photographer


[1] “White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities”. 2008-04-11. Retrieved 2008-04-23.

[2] “List of HBCUs”. White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. United States Department of Education. 2007-08-17. Retrieved 2008-02-08.

[3] Roach, Ronald. “American Baptist College Designated as a Historically Black Institution”. Diverse: Issues In Higher Education. Cox, Matthews, and Associates, Inc. Retrieved 29 April 2013

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