Fact Friday 398 - The Birthplace of Black College Football

Fact Friday 398 - The Birthplace of Black College Football

Happy Friday!

The game was played in the snows of Salisbury, North Carolina on the front lawn of Livingstone College, December 27, 1892.  Their opponent was Biddle College which eventually changed it's name to Johnson C. Smith University.

The Livingstone Blue Bears were formally organized in the fall of 1892.  According to an historical account of that first team published in the college's 1998 homecoming program, the elevens included JW Walker (captain), WJ Trent (manager), RJ Rencher, Henry Rives, CN Garland, JR Dillard, JBA Yelverton, Wade Hampton, Charles H Patrick JJ Taylor and FH Cummings.The Livingstone Bears were formally organized in the fall of 1892.  The team included J.W. Walker (captain), W.J. Trent (manager), R.J, Rencher, Henry Rives, C. N, Garland, J. R. Dillard, J.B.A. Yelverton, Wade Hampton, Charles H Patrick, and J.J. Taylor, and F.H. Cummings. As documented in the college's newspaper's 1930 edition, team members purchased a regulation football and uniforms, and the players equipped their street shoes with cleats, taking them off after practice.

The teams at Wake Forest and UNC-Chapel Hill had introduced college football to North Carolina a few years earlier, but this game was the first football game between black colleges ever.

The young women of the school's industrial department made the players' uniforms for the first game. The teams played two 45-minute halves on Livingstone's front lawn. W.J. Trent scored Livingstone's only touchdown on a fumble recovery.  By then, the snow had covered the field's markings, and Biddle argued that the fumble was recovered out of bounds.

The official ruled in Biddle's favor, allowing them to keep the 5-0 lead they had established early on and give the visitors victory.

A writer of a story in the 1930 year-book of Livingstone College provided a glimpse of that December experience when the team from Biddle Institute traveled to Livingstone's Old Delta Grove campus in Salisbury to play while writers recorded the results of a historic moment in sports history.

According to historian T.M. Martin, the men of Biddle spent two years studying and practicing the sport of football. In 1892, they challenged the men of Livingstone, whose team was formally organized in the fall of that year.

It is doubtful that when Biddle University and Livingstone College teed it up on Dec. 27, 1892, in what was described as little more than a cow pasture, no less, if the contestants in this momentous occasion had the slightest inkling of the legacy they were about to give birth to. Games of monumental historical significance, coaches of legendary proportions and players of extraordinary brilliance ultimately emerged from the mother lode that was to become known as the historically Black colleges and universities. 

A monument exists at Livingstone college to this day. Both schools have a bitter rivalry still, and the Commemorative Classic, in honor of this game, happens yearly.


Until next week!




"The Birthplace of Black College Football," The Official Site of the Livingstone Blue Bears. 

Wikipedia.org, "1892 Livingstone Football Team."

"Livingstone College kicked off a football tradition," by Herbert White, Our State, October 27, 2017. 


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“History is not the past, it is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” - James Baldwin

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