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Alabama A&M marching Band HBCU Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade history

Source: Courtesy of / AAMU’s Instagram Page

Alabama A&M University’s Marching Maroon and White Band is the first HBCU to lead the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

The achievement means that the student band will be the first thing millions of viewers see when they tune into this year’s 97th annual Turkey Day parade, which takes place in New York City from 77th St. and Central Park West down to Macy’s Herald Square on 34th Street. A sizable 256 of Alabama A&M University’s marchers will lead 11 other bands with a 75-second performance. 

Brandy, Cher, David Foster, En Vogue, Bell Biv DeVoe and more are all set to be in the spotlight later during the parade. The family-focused event will also include something special from the Sesame Street crew, the Harlem Globetrotters and other wholesome entertainment groups, according to a Nov. 14 university statement.

Carlton Wright, the Director of University Bands at the Alabama-based HBCU, told CNN that the application process took him anywhere from a month to six weeks to complete. While speaking with USA Today, the Maroon & White Band’s leader noted that he didn’t get the history-making news regarding their selection until February 2022.

Leading the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a major feat and an incredible boost of representation for HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities, of which there are 107 nationwide.

The Alabama A&M University students’ travel took over 900 miles to reach The Big Apple. When one of the buses arrived, the excited young marchers sang the chorus of Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” ft. Alicia Keys.


The HBCU band’s call time on Thanksgiving Day is at 2 a.m. sharp. Wright said he and the marchers are “excited” and “a little bit nervous.”

“But one we get started on the first step of the parade, we will be okay,” the marching band leader stated in his USA Today interview. “It’s a great reward for our students to be able to attend this parade because they’ve worked hard to raise the funds for the past two years. To end this semester and this marching band season on a high note like this is wonderful.” 

“It’ll be a surprise,” Wright additionally told CNN of the band’s setlist, which is being kept under wraps. “It’ll be something very familiar with a hip-hop twist to it.”


Alabama A&M University’s auxiliary dancing group and flag corps, the Dancing Divas and the Fabulous Flags opened up for NYC’s iconic Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall Nov. 20.

The groups’ shining moments on stage came ahead of the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular that evening.


See the Marching Maroon and White Band do their thing at the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 8:30 a.m. to noon in each national time zone.

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