Alabama A&M Makes History as First HBCU Band to Lead Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


by Veracity Savant

November 20, 2023

They’re the first HBCU to kick off the parade!

256 students from Alabama A&M University’s Marching Maroon and White are set to travel more than 900 miles to kick off the 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, USA Today reports. Held annually in New York City, Alabama A&M is not the first HBCU band to perform in the parade, but they are the first to lead it; the school’s Dancin’ Divas auxiliary also set for a special performance with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. 

A momentous occasion for the historically Black university, band director Carlton Wright applied two years ago after seeing marching bands from Hampton University and the University of Alabama perform in the parade. It got his wheels spinning, and Wright immediately started thinking about how he could get his students in on the fun. 


“I went to my laptop and visited the Macy’s website, and I found the application on there. Right away, I just started typing in the application on Thanksgiving morning two years ago,” Wright told reporters. 

A tedious endeavor, Wright had to submit entries, letters of recommendation, videos, and recordings over a six-week period. He finally got the call that Alabama A&M had been selected in February of 2022. For two years, students have focused on raising funds in the chance they were selected. With only 75 seconds to complete their Macy’s Parade performance, they’ve focused their last push efforts on practicing their music, formations, and marching sequence until it’s seared into their brains. 

“It’s just like everything is coming to reality now for me. From the beginning process, like I spoke about earlier, filling out the application, going through the process, [and] flying to New York a couple times to have meetings up there. And it’s really real now. So, we’re excited about that and a little bit nervous as well…But once we get started on the first step of the parade, we will be okay,” said Wright. 


For many of the students, it’s their first time traveling to the city, and the University has a lot of educational activities planned for them in addition to the big day. For Wright, also an alum of Alabama A&M, it’s a full-circle moment. 

“I am a graduate of this program, and we never got a chance to do anything like this when I was here playing in the band as a student. But now I get to be able to help provide this opportunity for our students,” Wright explained. 


Alabama A&M’s Marching Maroon and White will hit the streets of New York City on Thanksgiving morning at 77th St. and Central Park West. The parade is set to start at 8:30 am ET and end by 12:00 pm ET. The 97th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will broadcast live on NBC and be available for streaming on Peacock. 

Cover photo: Alabama A&M Makes History as First HBCU Band to Lead Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade/Photo by @aamuband/Instagram

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