SALISBURY – One hundred and 30 years ago, Livingstone College awaited the arrival of Johnson C. Smith University (then Biddle Memorial Institute), who traveled by horse and buggy to Salisbury to play football.
But it wasn’t just any game. That contest, held on a snowy Dec. 27, 1892, on the front lawn of Livingstone College, was the first black college football game played in America.
This year marks the 130th anniversary of that game as the two teams go to battle again on Nov. 5 in what is now known as the Commemorative Classic. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m.
The annual classic game started in 2009 to celebrate the history of the inaugural game and has continued ever since, alternating between the two campuses of Livingstone and JCSU.
The two historically black colleges met this week via Zoom to discuss the history and importance of the game.
There is more awareness about HBCU college football today than in the past 30 years due to Deion Sanders, nicknamed “Coach Prime,” a former NFL player who is now head coach of Jackson State University, an HBCU, said Livingstone President Dr. Anthony J. Davis.
“He has brought attention to black college football, but we can’t celebrate Coach Prime and Jackson State unless you revisit the snowy game in Salisbury in 1892 between Johnson C. Smith and Livingstone College,” he said. “Tomorrow, you play as a part of history. You are where it all started. This is the game that gave birth to all that we see now.”
JCSU President Dr. Clarence Armbrister said it is honor for both teams to represent their institution by playing this game.
Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander will present a proclamation during pre-game activities. At halftime, Livingstone will induct Rob Clodfelter into the Commemorative Classic Hall of Fame.
A 1993 graduate of Livingstone College, Clodfelter was the CIAA Offensive Player of the Year in 1992; was 1992 Jet Magazine’s Player of the Year; and was inducted into the 2003 Livingstone Hall of Fame.