In 1965, The Higher Education Act officially declared the criteria for an HBCU to be any historically black university or institution established prior to 1964. The caveat and primary mission: prioritizing the education of Black Americans.

Historically, black marching bands date back to the military style of formation made popular during the colonial era. Dr. William Foster, former band director of FAMU, and who some credit as the patriarch of the black marching band, made a break from this old tradition and confidently ushered in a new era of showmanship on the field.

Soon after, the marching band style and overall formation began to shift. High-energy, electric performances were quickly the norm, replacing the often stoic look of the old militaristic style.

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but it drew in the audience. The band members hadn’t seen anything like it before, and they thought highly of me so they thought it was alright. Very shortly afterward, other bands started doing it.” – Dr. William Foster

For those who have never graced the fields of an HBCU campus, our 2016 Bevel Homecoming series is your entryway to the heartbeat of an HBCU. Homecoming is not just any event, this is our social event of the year.

Film by James Bland // Photography by Elton Anderson // Words by Chatel Theagene