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HBCU Homecomings: 100 Years of Tradition

HBCU Homecoming Traditions Marching Band

HBCU homecoming is an exciting time of year across campuses everywhere. Both students and alumni look forward to gathering together to celebrate the culture and reunite with friends new and old. Whether you graduated last year or twenty years ago, you can connect with other alums of your HBCU over shared homecoming traditions. 

Homecoming is one of many traditions celebrated on every HBCU campus and is one of the most important. Graduates of different HBCUs bond over shared and different homecoming traditions. 

Join us as we take a look at the history and present of some beloved HBCU homecoming traditions. 

First HBCU Homecoming Game

There is some debate over when the first HBCU homecoming was held, but there is photo evidence of Howard University’s 1920 homecoming game. Some schools have traditional homecoming foes (Howard and Morehouse are frequent homecoming rivals) while others prefer to take on new challengers each year. 

First HBCU Marching Band

HBCU students and alumni know that the best part of the game is the band’s homecoming field show. It’s been said that the first HBCU marching band was established in the 1890s at the Tuskegee Normal School, now Tuskegee University. Around the same time, blues legend W.C. Handy was leading the band at Alabama A&M. 

Modern HBCU band traditions date to 1946. That year, Dr. William P. Foster was leading the Florida A&M Marching 100 in practice. The band added a dance routine and HBCU history was made. Dr. Foster’s other innovations included playing popular music instead of marches, adding instrument choreography, and requiring the memorization of all music. Music scholars believe that Dr. Foster was personally responsible for no less than 30 innovations in the HBCU and college marching band scene. If you love your HBCU’s band, thank Dr. Foster and hug your favorite Rattler! 

Popular Homecoming Traditions on HBCU Campuses

Throughout the years, HBCUs have added their own unique spin to homecoming events. Here are some of the things you might see at a typical HBCU homecoming: 

  • The Coronation. At an HBCU, it’s not enough to simply crown a homecoming king and queen. HBCU coronations are elaborate and well-thought-out productions. Student actors, dancers, and singers perform in a (usually) student-produced show before the court is officially crowned.
  • Greek life. Greek organizations – especially those belonging to the National Pan-Hellenic Council or “Divine Nine” – are a huge part of HBCU homecomings. Many schools host step shows that let these organizations show off their stepping skills. Even if there isn’t an official step show, you are practically guaranteed to see fraternity or sorority members strolling on the yard or giving impromptu step shows at some point during homecoming weekend.  
  • Food. Speaking of tailgating, food is a crucial component of an HBCU homecoming. Whether you’re looking for traditional soul food, BBQ, or something in between, chances are someone is cooking it up at their tailgate. Everyone brings their “A” game, so everything is delicious. 
  • Music. What would an HBCU homecoming be without music? Music – whether it’s coming from the marching band, the tailgate, or the folks driving by in their freshly washed cars – provides the soundtrack to the HBCU homecoming experience. Also, most HBCU homecomings feature concerts with performances from today’s hottest hitmakers as well as legendary artists.  
  • Fashion. During homecoming week, many schools host fashion shows, but HBCU homecoming aficionados know that the entire crowd is part of a huge fashion show. If you want to see cutting-edge trends in hair, clothes, and shoes, you’ll find them at an HBCU homecoming. 
  • Celebrity appearances. In 1995, The Notorious B.I.G. attended Howard’s homecoming. Since then, HBCU homecomings have hosted many Black celebrities. Some come to perform; others come to enjoy the vibe. If you go to an HBCU homecoming, keep your eyes peeled – you never know who might show up! 

Happy Homecoming from The Home Depot!

HBCU homecomings give HBCU students and alumni a chance to think about where they’ve been and where they’re going. The Home Depot is proud to support HBCUs through our Retool Your School Program and other initiatives. Keep visiting The Drill to learn more about HBCUs!

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