Livingstone College, located in Salisbury, North Carolina, is considered the birthplace of black football in America. Current students and alum shared their experiences attending one of the oldest HBCU institutions in the country.
According to ABC 11, The university’s 50-yard line may be covered with grass, but the legacy will remain on campus at Livingstone College. The first historically black football game occurred in 1892 when the Livingstone Blue Bears played against Biddle college, now Johnson C. Smith University.
“The game kind of went down to the wire. There was a turnover. Certain persuasions caused people to make decisions that didn’t put us in favor, and so, it’s been an archrival ever since,” said Livingstone College head coach Sean Gilbert.
Over 129 years later, the blue bears entered their first football season under the leadership of Gilbert, a former NFL player who suited up for several teams, including the Carolina Panthers.
“A coach is more than a coach. He’s a mentor, counselor, sometimes father. Not saying that to those who have them, but for guys who don’t have them and need the conversation, you lend your ear to that,” he said.
The lifestyle on campus for this private HBCU, located 130 miles west of the Raleigh area, extends far beyond the essence of football. The incredible history deeply rooted in Livingstone College started in 1879 when descendants of free slaves — who were also members of the A.M.E. Zion Church — viewed education as a way of unlocking endless opportunities for themselves.
The school’s Dodge Hall was the first brick building established on campus by students. Their main goal was to utilize school resources as a way to manifest their dreams for the future. Its founding president, Dr. Joseph Charles Price, is buried on campus not far from the Walls Center Chapel. Student Government Association President Justin Wade also studies religion and philosophy at the university, ABC 11 reports.
“As a preacher, I’m going to seminary. For the founders of my institution to have been seminarians and wanting to found a seminary, that hits closer to home,” said Wade.
Wade, 20, is a Bronx-born-Charlotte native who grew up in a Black church and cherished those values in adulthood. The SGA president is the son of a preacher and reportedly was the only Black man in his high school senior class. However, he was eager to experience all of what an HBCU institution had to offer.
“There is a greater joy, and there is a greater appreciation of the material that’s being learned when it’s taught by people who look like you, sound like you and share in your experience,” he said.
According to ABC 11, Livingstone College has molded Wade into the leader he aspired to be. To round out his college experience, he serves as the 93rd SGA President, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated, and campus minister.
“Students are your most honest audience. You can look at a student in the preaching moment and know I’m not clicking or, you can look and tell I’m saying what they need to hear. They may not spin on the floor like grandmamma, whose gone jump up and spin on the floor, but I’ve touched that student,” said Wade.
While there are more than 20 majors offered at Livingstone College, life on campus plays a significant role in the overall HBCU experience for students. Aishia Elaine Buie serves as Ms. Livingstone, one of a few student ambassadors.
“I am from Jacksonville, Florida, and a biology scholar,” she said.
Buie is the only girl of seven boys and a first-generation college student in her family. She is studying to become a surgeon and appreciates the small-classroom sizes the university has to offer. With less than one thousand students enrolled on campus, Buie credits the enrollment status as a key to her collegiate success, According to ABC 11.
“I have the opportunity to have bonds. Actual student-teacher bonds with professors like when I feel myself falling, it’s not a problem at all to find that help,” said Buie.
Dr. Da’Tarvia Parrisha is a three-time HBCU graduate. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Livingstone College, Master’s from North Carolina A & T, and Doctorate from Clark Atlanta University, per ABC 11.
“We believe in educating the heart, head, and hands. Students will be introduced to psychological concepts, social constructs, and physical practices that will shape them inside and out,” she said. “I just believe in HBCU’s. I believe in the foundation it sets for people. I believe in the cultural pride and cultural dignity. It’s excellence the Livingstone way!”