Young and Hungry

Howard University History: Not Feeding Its Athletes

In this week's print edition of Washington City Paper, Dave McKenna takes a look at the state of Howard University athletics: "Howard, quite plainly, has long been an unwelcome place for athletes," he writes. And issues related to food dominate one chapter of Hilltop history.

Writes McKenna:

All the way back in 1936, for example, the plight of Howard athletes was a national story. That’s when the whole football team went on strike just before a home game against Virginia Union. According to The Washington Post’s account, Howard players, angered by the continued failure of the school to even provide them food, voted to forfeit. While the crowd was waiting for kick off, the team walked over to the Howard Theater on T Street NW and took in a show by entertainer and burgeoning comic legend Pigmeat Markham.

In its writeup of the 1936 brouhaha, Time magazine, describing Howard as a “happyland for white-collared U.S. Negroes,” quoted one of the striking players saying he and his teammates couldn’t face Virginia Union on empty stomachs. “We were too hungry to get in there and battle those big country boys full of ham and kale,” he said.

In the ensuing school week, Howard students boycotted class to take up the team’s cause. The students marched down Georgia Avenue with the players chanting “Food! Food! Food! We want food!” and carrying signs that said “We Want Ham and Cabbage for the Team!”

In the end, the university punished the team by having it forfeit its final game of the season.

Read the full article here.

...