Forefathers lay firm foundation

The State Normal College for Colored Students, or FAMU as it is presently known, opened October 3, 1887, with a student body of 15 pupils. It was initially founded to provide advanced training for teachers in one wooden building.

No housing was provided. The first wave of students that attended the institution boarded with private families. They would attend class after working in the fields.

The first president, Thomas DeSaille Tucker, was also an instructor of English and rhetoric. Thomas Van Gibbs, who was appointed vice-president of the institution, had the duty of instructing mathematics and science in addition to his duties as vice-president.

Tucker followed the WEB Du Bois school of thought and was critical of Booker T. Washington. It was his belief that blacks could perform any task a white could if they received the same training. By the end of Tucker’s tenure in 1901, the student body grew to over 250 students.

Fast forward to 2005, a time in which the number of students at FAMU is over 10,000. On the campus there are over 60 buildings and 14 different schools.

Over the years FAMU has been through its share of problems, most due to racial inequality. The separate but equal era stagnated the University because it lacked the resources available to other universities.

Today, some people believe Historically Black Colleges and Universities are no longer necessary, which negatively impacts some universities like FAMU.

Ola S. Lamar, a former FAMU public speaking professor disagrees.

” As a product of FAMU, I understand personally and professionally how important it is. I’ve been a student and taught students,” Lamar said.

The guidance offered at FAMU fits “a student of color or of any nationality or ethnicity,” he said.

Every year a large pool of students decide to attend HBCUs over Traditionally White Institutions for various reasons.

Some attended white schools all of their lives and wanted the black experience, and some wanted to learn from people who looked like them while developing contacts with bright and positive students like themselves.

“Once you get here, you get more than just a good pharmacy program or business school. You experience the genuine love, the passion, and the compassion that you wouldn’t get at any other university,” Dominique Johnson said about FAMU.

Johnson believes FAMU provides students with many opportunities. She said the career fairs and forums at the University are good resources.

Johnson, a 20-year-old junior student from Jacksonville said FAMU is more than just a university. It is an institution – a living representation of the plight of black Americans. Its growth and struggles mirror the legacy of the community that it caters to.

“I see FAMU becoming one of the top universities in America: financial aid improving, teachers helping students get better jobs, and more alumni support in the coming years,” Johnson said.

Serena Jones, a 19-year-old sophomore agrees.

“I see a future with a lot of personal successes, the establishment of a stronger sense of pride, and a return to FAMU being the college of the year?, said Jones, a nursing student from Raleigh, N.C.

Contact Damien Warren at