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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

HONORING THE SESQUICENTENNIAL OF HAMPTON UNIVERSITY

April 27, 2018
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor an institution that has been at the forefront of education in America for the last 150 years. This April, Hampton University is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its founding. To mark the occasion, I would like to take a moment and recognize the wonderful legacy of this institution of higher education that lives on today.

The seeds from which Hampton University grew were planted in 1861. During the Civil War, Fort Monroe, the Union-controlled coastal fortress, was a beacon to slaves in Hampton, Virginia and the surrounding towns. General Benjamin Butler, Commanding Officer of the fort, had issued a declaration that any slaves that made it to Union lines would not be returned to their masters, but declared ``contraband of war.'' Overrun with slaves desiring their freedom, the Union created a camp for the refugees a few miles northwest of the fort. It was in this camp that Mary Smith Peake, a free black woman held classes for escapees under a large oak tree, in violation of Virginia law prohibiting the education of free or enslaved blacks. This tree would later be named the Emancipation Oak, as it was the first place in the South when the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud to a crowd. The classes and meetings held under the Emancipation Oak were the beginning of education on the campus of what was to become Hampton University.

After the war, there were no existing pathways for freedmen to rise from their station in slavery. Recognizing this, Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, head of the Freedmen's Bureau in Hampton Roads, founded the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in April 1868. While nominally the school's mission was to train black teachers to fill the demand for the education of black Americans, the school's founder suggested the true purpose of the school was ``to train selected Negro youth who should go out and teach and lead their people first by example, by getting land and homes; to give them not a dollar that they could earn for themselves; to teach respect for labor, to replace stupid drudgery with skilled hands, and in this way to build up an industrial system for the sake not only of self-support and intelligent labor, but also for the sake of character.''

Hampton became a model for the creation of other schools designed to uplift Black America. Within nine years of arriving on Hampton's campus for his education, Booker T. Washington was founding Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Hampton continued to produce black educators and skilled craft and tradesmen. Many of the campus buildings of this era were built by Hampton students. Hampton expanded its programs, increasing its course offerings to include business, nursing, and other arts and sciences classes. In 1930 the school was renamed Hampton Institute, recognizing its growth from its agricultural and teacher training roots. And in 1984, after a thorough nine-month study of Hampton's rapid growth and development and acknowledging its commitment to attracting quality students and talented faculty, offering a robust selection of academic programs, as well as its status as a premier research institution, it was recommended that Hampton Institute change its name to Hampton University.

Hampton's current legacy has been shaped over the past 40 years by President Dr. William R. Harvey. Dr. Harvey came to Hampton in 1978 as the 12th President of the school. Under his leadership, Hampton has remained an innovative institution of higher education. If Dr. Harvey's tenure were measured solely by the creation of traditional campus facilities, the construction of the Convocation Center, Student Center, Sports Facilities, Libraries, schools of journalism and physical sciences would be a fitting tribute to his tenure. But Dr. Harvey has also had the vision to ensure that Hampton was at the forefront of innovative new technologies and opportunities. Hampton University's Proton Therapy Institute is the only one of its kind in Virginia, and through its partnerships with NASA, Hampton is currently the only historically black college and university in control of a NASA satellite mission.

Over 150 years, Hampton University, ``Our Home by the Sea,'' has grown from an outdoor academy for newly freed slaves to an established research university and one of the bedrock institutions of the Hampton Roads region. Its athletic teams have won scores of championships in multiple sports. Its alumni have achieved acclaim in the arts, sciences, business, and politics. And Hampton has held a place of reverence in the story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America. I would like to commend Dr. Harvey, the faculty, staff, students, and alumni of Hampton University on the occasion of their sesquicentennial, and I wish them another 150 years of success, growth, and achievement as a pinnacle of higher education in our country.

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