Hampton Institute - American EducationThe original name of Hampton University, founded in 1868 by Samuel Chapman Armstrong “to train selected Negro youth . . . [to] lead their people . . .” Now a private, coeducational liberal arts university, with more than 4,500 students (95% black), Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute, which was its official original name, opened as an all-purpose school in a converted mansion on an antebellum estate near Hampton, Virginia. After the Civil War, tens of thousands of freed slaves flocked to Union Army camps for food, clothing and work opportunities. Formerly a colonel in command of the Ninth Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops, Armstrong was appointed superintendent of education for the Freedmen’s Bureau after the war and took charge of a huge encampment of several thousand illiterate and destitute former slaves near Hampton.
An African-American student learns weaving at Hampton Institute, Virginia. (Library of Congress)
Born and raised on Maui, in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), Armstrong had helped his missionary parents develop the Hilo Manual Labor School for native Hawaiians, and he used this as a model for developing Hampton. With funds and teachers from the American Missionary Association, Armstrong combined academic and manual training in a three-year curriculum that included reading, writing and language skills, mathematics, history, natural science, an agricultural course, a commercial course and a course in mechanics. Hampton became a model for dozens of similar schools throughout the South, including the TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, founded by Hampton graduate Booker T. Washington. (See also Hampton-Tuskegee Model.)