Hampton University has embraced the principles of "Education for life" and "learning by doing," since its founding in 1868 during the days of Reconstruction. Originally opening its doors as Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute to prepare promising young African-American men and women to lead and teach their newly-freed people, the University has continually sought to instill in its students the precepts of efficiency, character and service to society-standards that continue to remain both timeless and relevant.
Founded on the banks of the Virginia Peninsula by Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, the 29 year-old son of missionary parents, Hampton became an oasis of opportunity for the thousands of newly-freed people gathered behind Union lines. With the aid of the American Missionary Association, the school was established to train selected young men and women to "go out to teach and lead their people," and to build a viable industrial system on the strength of self-sufficiency, intelligent labor and solid moral character.
In 1878, Hampton established a formal education program for Native Americans, beginning the Institute's lasting commitment to serving a multicultural population. Hampton's historic Native American education program spanned more than forty years, with the last student graduating in 1923. Recent initiatives have attracted Native American students to renew their ties with Hampton.
In the early days, support for the Institute came from the Freedman's Bureau, Northern philanthropists and religious groups, with the first classroom building erected in 1870. The first baccalaureate degrees were awarded in 1922. Two years later, the school's name was changed to Hampton Institute, reflecting college-level accreditation. In 1984, Hampton's Board of Trustees formally adopted a university structure and changed the name to Hampton University, which today represents the unparalleled standard of excellence in American higher education.