3 Things You Didn’t Know About Florida A&M University

3 Things You Didn’t Know About Florida A&M University

Which HBCU lives on a hill in the Sunshine State, has a legacy over 130 years old, and is orange and green all over? If Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) comes to mind, you really know your HBCUs! 

Tallahassee, Florida, has been lucky to be home to one of the nation’s greatest HBCUs for over 130 years. Its history is rich, its culture is vibrant, and its educational achievements are something to be celebrated. But beyond its iconic orange and green lies a story waiting to be told. FAMU has been, and remains, one of the most beloved HBCUs. But how much do you really know about “Florida's Opportunity University?” And what’s up with the snake? Look no further, because you're about to  learn about what makes the home of the Rattlers unlike any other Historically Black College or University. 

1. Origins: From Humble Beginnings to an Accredited University

Did you know that FAMU wasn’t always Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University? The school had three other names before finally landing where we are today. The story begins in October of 1887, when FAMU was founded as the State Normal College for Colored Students with just 15 students and two instructors: Thomas DeSaille Tucker, an attorney from Pensacola, Florida, and a Black abolitionist (who was also a former state legislator) named Jonathan C. Gibbs. With Tucker appointed as the first president, school was officially in session. In 1891, the college received a grant under the Second Morrill Act for agricultural and mechanical arts education in the amount of $7,500. That would have been almost $186,000 today when adjusted for inflation.The school was now Florida’s official land grant university, and the new status was accompanied by a name change. The State Normal College for Colored Students was now the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students. But the changes didn’t stop there. In 1905, the school experienced a change in management from the Board of Education to the Board of Control, which officially designated the college as an institution of higher education.The State Normal College for Colored Students was now Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (FAMC). Under the leadership of President Dr. George W. Gore (1950-1968), Florida A&M College became Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University when it was granted university status by the Florida legislature in 1953. Despite all of these changes, FAMU’s mission has always been the same: to meet the needs of the underrepresented and the underprivileged while upholding a legacy expressed in the school’s motto, “Excellence With Caring.” It is a place where students can thrive and succeed, regardless of what they have had to overcome. This is why FAMU is called “Florida’s Opportunity University”. 

2. Symbolism in Color: The Meaning Behind the Orange and Green

FAMU’s iconic school colors, a lush green and a vibrant orange, are certainly eye-catching, but the bold color combination has a meaning beyond its pleasing aesthetic. The colors pay homage to two important features of the school. First, the orange represents Florida’s orange industry. Florida is one of the world's largest producers of citrus. In fact, oranges are such an important part of Florida’s culture, that they were named the official state fruit in 2005. To drive the point home, the orange blossom was named the state flower in 1909, and orange juice became the state beverage in 1967. Can you see how important oranges are to Florida? Interestingly enough, oranges aren’t native to the sunshine state. Although citrus plants thrive in Florida’s warm and humid climate, they were introduced to Florida in the 16th century, from Spanish ships sailing from Europe to the New World. The color orange itself represents energy, enthusiasm, and warmth. It’s a color of action and creativity, which suits the FAMU community well. Secondly, the green is representative of Florida’s abundant and flourishing landscape, home to many varieties of plants, trees and flowers. It symbolizes the fertile soil of Florida's agricultural terrain and the university's commitment to nurturing intellectual and personal growth among its students. Moreover, it serves as a reminder of the university's roots as an agricultural and mechanical college. As the name implies, agriculture is a big part of the FAMU experience, and unlike many universities, there is an entire college dedicated to agriculture and food sciences, making the landscape an important part of both the cultural and educational aspects of FAMU. The color green also represents growth, renewal, and prosperity reflecting the natural beauty of FAMU's campus and the vitality of its community. 

Venom the Rattler: “We strike and strike and strike again!”

If nothing else, FAMU’s choice in mascot definitely sets it apart from the rest. Rattlesnakes are venomous reptiles known for the rattling sound their tails make as a defense tactic to warn predators. But why choose such an animal as a school mascot? Originally, FAMU was going to be established in Jacksonville, Florida, but ultimately, the state decided to relocate the school to Tallahassee. The land on which the school was established belonged to a former governor of Florida, William Pope Duval. The land was an old plantation, a rural area with land that was wrought with wildlife, including rattlesnakes; lots and lots of rattlesnakes. FAMU decided to embrace this characteristic and adopted the rattlesnake as its official mascot. Interestingly enough, Venom the Rattler isn’t FAMU’s first mascot. FAMU actually went through several animals before ending up where they are now. There was a point at which the official mascot was a wildcat – ironic since the mascot of FAMU’s number one rival, Bethune Cookman University, just so happens to be a wildcat, too. In the 1940s, the school’s mascot was a pink flamingo, of all things. Nevertheless, Florida A&M University carries the banner of Venom the Rattler proudly as a symbol of the spirit of confidence, grit and unyielding determination that drives their legacy. “We strike and strike and strike again!”

So there you have it. When it comes to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), there's more than meets the eye. What lesser-known FAMU fact surprised you the most? If you find yourself still pondering, here’s one more: did you know that HBCULeggings.com offers an exclusive Florida A&M University Apparel line? From leggings to cozy hoodies and snug blankets, you can proudly display your Rattler spirit in every aspect of your life. There's an undeniable empowerment that comes with understanding the history behind a name, one that fuels a sense of pride and belonging.  Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University continues to inspire generations of students with its rich legacy and enduring commitment to excellence. So, the next time you think of FAMU, remember that there's always more to discover beneath the surface.

Love and Leggings,


Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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