The historic 1967 Orange Blossom Classic between Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Grambling University is the cover story of the November 15 issue of American Airlines’ publication, American Way.
Written by Samuel G. Freedman, NY Times columnist and author of the book Breaking the Line, the article describes how two rival football teams, with two star quarterbacks under the leadership of two legendary coaches revolutionized college sports and transformed the NFL. FAMU coach Jake Gaither with quarterback Ken Riley, along with Grambling’s Eddie Robinson and James Harris made a profound difference in how America finally came to appreciate the talent of black athletes. For a 30-year period, the Orange Blossom Classic football game in Miami wans the most important annual sporting event and the largest annual gathering of any kind for African Americans.
The Orange Blossom Classic was founded by J.R.E. Lee Jr., the son of Florida A&M University’s president, at a time when blacks were not allowed to compete in bowl games. In 1933, FAMU beat Howard in front of 2,000 fans at a “blacks-only” ballpark in Jacksonville, Fla. For 13 years, the contest hopped around the Florida cities of Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa before becoming an annual event in Miami in 1947. During the first Classic game in Miami, a racial milestone was met. For the first time, black fans were permitted in the main stands of the Orange Bowl.
“When a Florida A&M Rattler receiver named Nathaniel “Traz” Powell caught a 45-yard pass to break a tie with Hampton Institute, he became the first black man to score a touchdown on the Orange Bowl’s previously whites-only gridiron,” Freedman writes in the article. “For years to come, blacks around the state would speak about his touchdown as if he’d been Rosa Parks refusing to surrender her seat.”
To read the article in its entirety, visit http://hub.aa.com/en/aw/orange-bowl-classic-football-black-history .