From the moment we disembarked the bus and stepped into the Hampton University Museum – which is home to the country’s oldest museum of African American art – to the instant when our group rounded the corner of a building and first glimpsed mouth of the Chesapeake Bay (on which the campus is situated), we were truly in for an epic campus visit experience at Hampton University.
Hampton is a growing and vibrant HBCU (historically black college and university) with a rich and varied history and a clearly articulated vision for the future. Founded under the shade of the tree now known as the Emancipation Oak (the tree under which the first southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation occurred) with just one class of twenty students and later developing into a full-fledged school in 1863 (The Butler School for Negro Children), the university was first developed as a trade and industrial school and later produced its most famous graduate, Booker T. Washington, who founded the Tuskegee Institute in 1881. In 1878, the school began accepting Native American students sent from Fort Sill in Oklahoma and the Native American educational program was a part of what transitioned into the Hampton Normal School. In fact, Hampton Normal would educate Native Americans in the trades until 1923 and today, a great deal of Native American art also resides within the Hampton University Museum as a reflection of this part of the university’s past.
Today, Hampton offers its students a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs in a wide array of areas – and to top it all off, yes, equestrians, they have a western riding program that’s housed just off campus. (They don’t compete at present but it was made clear during our visit that Hampton students are capable of anything they set their minds to, so I’ve no doubt that the very moment Hampton equestrians decide that they’d like to join the IHSA, they will do so.)
The most popular programs for the just under 4,000 undergraduate students at Hampton are in business and the STEM fields, though education and human development and the liberal arts are very close runners up. (Some figures might also be slightly skewed because Hampton students are allowed to cross-study between different schools as their goals dictate.) Nursing and pharmacy are also growing programs, as is its Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications. (With such close proximity to Richmond, Virginia and Washington, D.C., is it any wonder that students at Hampton should have interests in both the ways in which people are governed and the ways in which government and other entities communicate their messages?)
Epic did indeed define our time at Hampton University – as it likewise defined the decadent desserts they served us after lunch.