Yesterday (Saturday, September 7) was the annual game between Johnson C. Smith University and Livingstone College. Now called the Commemorative Classic it brings together two historically black colleges together in football. Started in 1892, this was the first football game between two black colleges and while the story is not that well known to most Charlotteans, it deserves to be told.
It was December 1892. Johnson C. Smith University (then known as Biddle College) offered a challenge to Livingstone College, just up the road in Salisbury, North Carolina to play a game of football. Livingstone accepted the challenge and female students from the Industrial Science Department at Livingstone made Livingstone’s uniforms. There are no records that exists about how Biddle obtained their uniforms.
It was snowing on the day of the game, December 27, 1892. The teams got together in Salisbury on the front lawn of Livingstone. The game was close despite the weather, with Biddle scoring the only touchdown. After a fumble recovery by Livingstone was ruled out of bounds despite the fact that the snow had obscured the lines and to the spectators, it could not be determined where the lines were, the game ended with Biddle winning the game.
There was no newspaper coverage of the game in the Charlotte or the Salisbury newspapers. There is some documentation of the game that has been handed down through the years, but the significance of the game is priceless. It was to help spawn football programs in other black schools, most of them survive to this day.
I normally recommend websites and books on a subject if you want to know more, but as there is not a lot of information out there I would encourage you to check out the history of college football and do your own research. You just might find out something that we didn’t know about.