Author: Robert Francis Engs


Samuel Chapman Armstrong (1839–1893)

Samuel Chapman Armstrong was the founder of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (later Hampton University). Armstrong’s father served as the kingdom of Hawaii’s minister of education and emphasized student labor as a key part of schooling. The younger Armstrong enlisted in the Union army during the American Civil War (1861–1865) and commanded regiments in the United States Colored Troops. After the war he worked with the Freedmen’s Bureau and began planning a school to train black teachers. Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute opened in 1868 and emphasized labor alongside academics. The institution produced African American educators across the South, most notably Booker T. Washington. In 1878 Hampton’s mission expanded with the admission of Native American students. The growth intensified Armstrong dependence on benefactors and in turn left it further exposed to the rising racism among American whites. In his later years academics at Hampton were publicly de-emphasized in favor of its trade-school programs. Armstrong died of a stroke in 1893.