The Downsizing of Black College Reunion

Black College Reunion began in the spring of 1984 when students and alumni of the predominantly black Bethune-Cookman College and Florida A&M University convened in Daytona Beach during spring break. Over the years, the annual event grew to include black college students from across the country.

Since its inception, Black College Reunion has been steeped in controversy. Daytona Beach has a history of rigid racial segregation. In the past, many shop and restaurant owners closed their doors during the three-day Black College Reunion rather than cater to a black clientele. The local tourist authority tried to ban the event. Violence has also plagued Black College Reunion. In 1998 a black man opened fire on a crowded Daytona Beach street at midnight. Four police officers were shot as were two bystanders. The gunman was killed. At that time Daytona Beach’s mayor called the event “a threat to public safety.”

But the city and its businesses made so much money during Black College Reunion that efforts to do away with it were always turned aside. The event continued to grow, spurred on by the involvement of Black Entertainment Television’s filming of its annual Spring Bling concert which brought crowds of 200,000 or more to Daytona Beach.

In 2006 BET staged its annual Spring Bling in Miami and attendance at Black College Reunion dwindled to about 50,000. After more than two decades of controversy in Daytona Beach, many students from black colleges now prefer to spend their spring break elsewhere.