When it was founded on Oct. 3, 1887, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University was known as the State Normal College for Colored Students.
Back then, the institution had 15 students and two instructors. Today FAMU, with its main campus located in Tallahassee, Fla., has more than 12,000 students enrolled.
The 125th birthday celebration began on Tuesday and continues today.
Thomas Van Renssaler Gibbs, a Duval County educator, who was elected to the Florida legislature in 1884, put in motion the laws to create FAMU. Although his political career ended abruptly because of the resurgence of segregation, Representative Gibbs was successful in orchestrating the passage of House Bill 133, in 1884, which established a white normal school in Gainesville, FL, and a colored school in Jacksonville.
The bill passed, creating both institutions; however, the state decided to relocate the colored school to Tallahassee.
The first president of institution was Thomas DeSaille Tucker who served from 1887 to 1901. Tucker was an attorney from Pensacola, was chosen to be the first president. Former State Representative Gibbs joined Tucker as the second faculty member.
In 1891, the college received $7,500 under the Second Morrill Act for agricultural and mechanical arts education, and the State Normal College for Colored Students became Florida’s land grant institution for colored people.
A single, white-framed building with three departments of study and recreation was the college’s first home. The college was relocated from its original site on Copeland Street to its present location, and its name was changed to the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students.
Today, FAMU offers more than 60 bachelor’s degrees with architecture, journalism, and psychology among the most popular undergraduate majors.
The university offers more than 40 graduate degrees including law, engineering and education.
FAMU has faced controversy for almost a year following the death of a drum major who had been hazed. President James Ammons resigned earlier this year, and the university’s board of trustees is currently searching for a permanent replacement.
Still FAMU has continued to capture national recognition from its research and academics. In the annual ranking of historically black colleges and universities, FAMU was the top ranked publicly funded institution. FAMU ranked 10 overall on the list.