It may carry the banner of Rattler proudly, but Florida A&M University’s mascot has changed many times over the years, from birds to reptiles, at one point we were even Wildcats like our rival Bethune Cookman University.
FAMU went through many mascots before officially fitting themselves with the Rattler name. The FAMU mascot was once a flamingo during the 1940’s. “One story is that our mascot was a pink flamingo,” said Doris Jacobs Smith, educational specialist and curator for the Black Archives and the Union Bank (Freedmen’s Bank). “I even saw the flamingo on the school’s yearbook.”
Smith said it’s believed that our mascot was named after an all black military 369 infantry called the “Black Rattlers,” during WWI.
All of this information is being recorded by Elizabeth Dawson, archivist and curator at the Meek-Eaton Black Archives Center and Museum, in a book she is writing about FAMU’s history. “I never knew some of the other stories told in Dr. Dawson’s book,” Smith said.
The Union bank is the extended facility for the Black Archives. If a student wants to get more information about the history of FAMU, the Union Bank provides the history of FAMU. Currently the Union Bank is under construction, but it will be up and running in the future soon.
Dawson couldn’t be reached for comments about the book.
The current mascot dates back to when the university was first founded. Smith said FAMU is founded on an old slave plantation, William Pope Duval’s slave plantation to be exact. Duval was the governor of Florida before FAMU came into existence. Smith said the story is that the plantation had a horrible infestation of rattlesnakes, hence our mascot.
For some students, the history of the school mascot is important.
Natalie Chapoteau, a 26 year-old English student explains,
“I realize that college is like a rite of passage. If people knew their history they would take more pride in their education.”
Andre Shaw, 24, a graduate community psychology student from Orlando, said that the Rattlers past mascots aren’t important.
“It’s the past, we’re Rattlers now,” Shaw said. “No offense, we’ve been a university so wildcats are way in the past.”