Hampton University is a historically black university located in Hampton, Virginia, United States. It was founded by black and white leaders of the American Missionary Association after the American Civil War to provide education to freedmen. In 1878 it was also teaching Native Americans.
The campus looking south across the harbor of Hampton Roads was founded on the grounds of "Little Scotland", a former plantation in Elizabeth City County not far from Fortress Monroe and the Grand Contraband Camp that gathered nearby. These facilities represented freedom to former slaves, who sought refuge with Union forces in the first year of the war.
The American Missionary Association (AMA) responded in 1861 to the former slaves' need for education by hiring its first mulatto teacher, Mary Smith Peake, who had secretly been teaching slaves and free blacks in the area despite the state's prohibition in law. She first taught for the AMA on September 17, 1861 and was said to gather her pupils under a large oak. After it was the site in 1863 of the first reading in the South of the Emancipation Proclamation, it was called the Emancipation Oak. The tree, a symbol of the university and the city, is part of the National Historic Landmark District at Hampton University.
The Hampton Agricultural and Industrial School, later called the Hampton Institute, was founded in 1868 after the war by the biracial leadership of the AMA, who were chiefly Congregational and Presbyterian ministers. It was first led by former Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong. Among the school's famous alumni is Dr. Booker T. Washington, who became an educator and later founded Tuskegee Institute, another college supported by the AMA. The President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was read to local freedmen under the same historic tree, which is still located on the campus today. It serves as a symbol for the modern city of Hampton.
During the American Civil War (1861–1865), Union-held Fortress Monroe in southeastern Virginia at the mouth of Hampton Roads became a gathering point and safe haven of sorts for fugitive slaves. The commander, General Benjamin F. Butler, determined they were "contraband of War, to protect them from being returned to slaveholders, who clamored to reclaim them. As numerous individuals sought freedom behind Union lines, the Army arranged the construction of the Grand Contraband Camp nearby from materials reclaimed from the ruins of Hampton, which had been burned by retreating Confederates. This area was later called "Slabtown."
Hampton University can trace its roots to the work of Mary S. Peake, which began in 1861 with outdoor classes which she taught under the landmark Emancipation Oak in the nearby area of Elizabeth City County. The newly issued Emancipation Proclamation was first read to a gathering under the historic tree there in 1863.
After the War, a normal school ("normal" meaning to establish standards or norms while educating teachers) was formalized in 1868, with former Union brevet Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong (1839–1893) as its first principal. The new school was established on the grounds of a former plantation named "Little Scotland", which had a view of Hampton Roads. The original school buildings fronted the Hampton River. Legally chartered in 1870 as a land grant school,it was first known as "Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute."
Typical of historically black colleges, Hampton received much of its financial support in the years following the Civil War from the American Missionary Association (whose black and white leaders represented the Congregational and Presbyterian churches), other church groups and former officers and soldiers of the Union Army. One of the many Civil War veterans who gave substantial sums to the school was General William Jackson Palmer, a Union cavalry commander from Philadelphia. He later built the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, and founded Colorado Springs, Colorado. As the Civil War began in 1861, although his Quaker upbringing made Palmer abhor violence, his passion to see the slaves freed compelled him to enter the war. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in 1894. (The current Palmer Hall on the campus is named in his honor.)
Unlike the wealthy Palmer, Sam Armstrong was the son of a missionary to the Sandwich Islands (which later became the U.S. state of Hawaii). He also had dreams for the betterment of the freedmen. He patterned his new school after the model of his father, who had overseen the teaching of reading, writing and arithmetic to the Polynesians. He wanted to teach the skills necessary for blacks to be self-supporting in the impoverished South. Under his guidance, a Hampton-style education became well known as an education that combined cultural uplift with moral and manual training. Armstrong said it was an education that encompassed "the head, the heart, and the hands."
At the close of its first decade, the school reported a total admission in the ten years of 927 students, with 277 graduates, all but 17 of whom had become teachers. Many of them had bought land and established themselves in homes; many were farming as well as teaching; some had gone into business. Only a very small proportion failed to do well. By another 10 years, there had been over 600 graduates. In 1888, of the 537 still alive, three-fourths were teaching, and about half as many undergraduates were also teaching. It was estimated that 15,000 children in community schools were being taught by Hampton's students and alumni that year.
Among Hampton's earliest students was Booker T. Washington, who arrived from West Virginia in 1872 at the age of 16. He worked his way through Hampton, and then went on to attend Wayland Seminary in Washington D.C. After graduation, he returned to Hampton and became a teacher. Upon recommendation of Sam Armstrong to founder Lewis Adams and others, in 1881, Washington was sent to Alabama at age 25 to head another new normal school. This new Institution eventually became Tuskegee University. Embracing much of Armstrong's philosophy, Washington built Tuskegee into a substantial school and became nationally famous as an educator, orator, and fund-raiser as well. He collaborated with the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald in the early 20th century to create a model for rural black schools - Rosenwald established a fund that matched monies raised by communities to build more than 5,000 schools for rural black children, mostly in the South
In 1878, Hampton established a formal education program for Native Americans. In 1875 at the end of the American Indian Wars, the United States Army sent seventy-two warriors from the Cheyenne, Kiowa, Comanche and Caddo Nations, to imprisonment and exile in St. Augustine, Florida. Essentially they were considered hostages to persuade their peoples in the West to keep peace. Richard Henry Pratt supervised them at Fort Marion and began to arrange for their education in the English language and American culture. Numerous visitors to St. Augustine from the North became interested in their cases and volunteered as teachers. They also provided them with art supplies, and some of the works by the men are held by the Smithsonian Institution. At the end of the warriors' incarceration, Pratt convinced seventeen of the younger men to enroll at Hampton Institute for a fuller education. (Later Pratt founded the Carlisle Indian Industrial School based on the success of some of the men with education and assimilation).
Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute became simply Hampton Institute in 1930. With the addition of departments and graduate programs, it was accredited as Hampton University in 1984. Originally located in Elizabeth City County, it was long-located in the Town of Phoebus, incorporated in 1900. Phoebus and Elizabeth City County were consolidated with the neighboring City of Hampton to form a much larger independent city in 1952. The City of Hampton uses the Emancipation Oak on its official seal. From 1960 to 1970, noted diplomat and educator Jerome H. Holland was president of the Hampton Institute.
The school is informally called simply "Hampton" or "HU" by many students, faculty and supporters. Hampton University and Howard University constantly claim the title, "The Real HU". Both schools enjoy the friendly rivalry.
The campus contains several buildings that contribute to its National Historic Landmark district: Virginia-Cleveland Hall (freshman female dormitory, as well as home to the school's two cafeterias), Wigwam building (home to administrative offices), Academy Building (administrative offices), Memorial Chapel (religious services) and the President's Mansion House.
The original High School on the campus became Phenix Hall when Hampton City Public Schools opened a new Phenix High School in 1959. Phenix Hall was damaged in a minor fire on June 12, 2008.
The Emancipation Oak was cited by the National Geographic Society as one of the 10 great trees in the world.
A 15-acre (61,000 m2) portion of the campus along the Hampton River, including many of the older buildings, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark District. Buildings included are:
In addition, Cleveland Hall, Ogden, and the Administration building are also included in the district.
The district was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
In 1995, Hampton joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, commonly referred to as the MEAC. Since joining, Hampton has won dozens of MEAC titles in football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's track, and men's and women's tennis. In March 2001, the men's basketball team made NCAA Tournament history, becoming only the fourth 15th-seeded team to defeat a 2nd-seeded team. Hampton defeated Iowa State, 58–57 on March 15, but lost to Georgetown two days later. The win still makes SportsCenter's Top 10 NCAA tournament upsets.
Rivals include Norfolk State University, located across Hampton Roads in downtown Norfolk, and Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Hampton's colors are blue and white, and their nickname is "The Pirates". Hampton sports teams participate in NCAA Division I (I FCS for football) in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in which they joined in 1995 after leaving the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Since joining, Hampton has won MEAC titles in many sports, including football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's track, and men's and women's tennis. In 2001, the Hampton basketball team won its first NCAA Tournament game, when they beat Iowa State 58–57, in one of the largest upsets of all time. They returned to the tournament a year later, as well as in 2006 and 2011. The "Lady Pirates" basketball team has seen great success as well, and made trips to the NCAA tournament in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2010, 2011, and 2012. In 1988, as a Division II school, the Lady Pirates won the NCAA Women's Division II Basketball Championship, defeating West Texas State. In 2011, as a number-13 seed, the Lady Pirates nearly upset Kentucky, but fell in overtime, 66-62.
They won their conference in football in 1997, shared one in 1998 and 2004, and won the conference out right in 2005, 2006. From 2004 to 2007, the university's football team saw much success. The team won 3 MEAC Championships, 3 SBN-Black College National Championships, and was ranked in the Division I FCS top 25 poll each year. The Pirates also sent five players to the NFL Combine in 2007, the most out of any FCS subdivision school for that year. They have also been dominant in tennis winning the MEAC from 1996–1999, 2001-2003 & 2007 for the men and 1998, 2002-2004 for the women. They've also won the men's conference basketball tournament in 2001, 2002, 2006, and 2011.
Pirate athletics are supported by a plethora of groups, including "The Force" Marching Band. The marching band has appeared at several notable performances, including the Barack Obama Presidential Inauguration parade (Washington, DC). "The Force" was chosen out of a large pool of applicants to participate in the parade as the representative for the state of Virginia.