Hampton vs. Howard: More Than Just a Game – Historic Photos

In just a few short hours two of our nation’s most historic HBCUs face off in the AT&T Nation’s Football Classic to determine who in fact is the real HU. Hampton University and Howard University were founded shortly after the Civil War and for well over a century continues to set a standard in educating young people all over the world.

The Nation’s Classic will showcase the talents of these two institutions both on and off the field. Be sure to catch the Presidential Symposium: An Exploration of Community and Police Relations, “The Game Before the Game: Student Debate Hampton vs. Howard” and the HBCU College and Career Fair with the Congressional Black College Foundation.

While you are enjoying the many festivities, be sure to look at some amazing photos of Hampton and Howard’s football team over the years!

Howard football team - 1946

Howard football team – 1946


Hampton vs. Howard 1915 game. Original photo from the Crisis Magazine

Hampton vs. Howard 1915 game. Original photo from the Crisis Magazine

Hampton Institute Football Team 1900. Hampton welcomed students from all over the world. This was one of the most diverse teams in the nation, including Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans

Hampton Institute Football Team 1900. Hampton welcomed students from all over the world. This was one of the most diverse teams in the nation, including Native Americans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans

Hampton - 1921

Hampton – 1921

Five Tips to Surviving Freshman Year

Congrats frosh, you are now entering into one of the most exciting times of your life as a first year college student. The next four or five years will afford you the space to figure out who you want to be all while gaining a formal education. You will party, laugh, cry, cram, and ultimately experience some of the best years of your life. Here are our five tips for surviving your first year in college.

  1. The Library Is Your Friend- Time Management


William Harvey Library on the campus of Hampton University

William Harvey Library on the campus of Hampton University

The biggest factor between failure and success for any college student is time management. Managing time is difficult for the average person. Factor in parties, new friends, a new environment; challenging classes and it becomes almost impossible to properly navigate this age-old paradox. However, those who are able to strike the right balance between social life and book life will find success.

Take it from someone who went from academic probation to graduating with honors, the first step is in setting priorities. There are twenty-four hours in a day. The average person may effectively use five to eight of them. Try spending an hour a day per class studying, doing homework, or reading. Find the library! Albert Einstein once said, “The only thing you have to know is the location of the library.” Get all your work out the way during the day so you can free up the late afternoon and nights for yourself. Lastly, invest in an agenda book or an app where you can track your daily progress, assignments, and goals for the day. Remember, we have “Just a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it!”

  1. Your Dorm Room Is For Sleep- Get Involved



In order to enjoy college life to the fullest you have to get out of your dorm! Don’t get me wrong, you will meet some close friends and have memorable moments goofing off in your dorm. However, I have seen many persons skip event after event, locking themselves in their dorms barely escaping to attend class.

Explore your new environment. Do not be afraid to meet new people. Remember, you are not the only newbie. With the exception of those having prior relationships or having met in pre-college, everybody is new! It is essential that you get involved in clubs, organizations, student leadership or government programs, etc. Joining clubs gives you the best opportunity to meet other people with similar interests as you. It will also help alleviate anxieties while helping to build your resume.

  1. It’s Ok To Be Yourself

Quite possibly the most important piece of advice. There is only one you and nobody can be better at being you than you! It is easy for people to try to recreate themselves upon entering college. Which in some instances is fine. We all must grow and evolve, that is what college is about. However, wearing a false mask is wack and detrimental to true positive growth. “Know thyself.”

  1. Take an African American History Course
They Came Before Columbus

They Came Before Columbus

Maybe I am a little biased here, but this is essential! African American history IS American history. It is also the history of a people’s struggle to overcome. Unfortunately, many high school curriculums have altogether failed and or stopped teaching Black history courses. This will be the first (and possibly the only) time many of you will have the opportunity to celebrate and learn the rich cultural, social, and political history of African Americans. This is essential to our previous point about being yourself. No matter your major, African American history courses help us all to better understand where we came from and where we are going.

  1. Get Politically Involved
Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee

Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee

Be reminded that students such as Diane Nash, Stokely Carmichael, Charles McDrew, Marion Barry, John Lewis, Julian Bond used politics to spark a Movement. These students recognized their social, political, and economic conditions and used (or fought against) the political system to change it.

Make a difference in your local community. When I was in undergrad, I was able to host voter registration drives, voter awareness programs, and put pressure on our local congressmen to enact change. If you are not registered to vote this should be among the first actions you take. Familiarize yourself with your local councilmembers and congressmen. Lastly, take a stand against something and leave a legacy bigger than yourself. You see what’s happening in Ferguson, don’t be afraid to speak up!

Now Presenting: The Hamptonian Collection


Just in time for homecoming season, fellow Hamptonians Themba Nelson and Matthew Moses are pleased to announce the offficial launch of The Hamptonian Collection. Dig the scoop below:

Hampton University has recently approved a new apparel line. The Hamptonian Collection, while in its infancy, embraces Hampton’s traditions and employs many designs that will reflect the school’s smaller sports programs that include sailing, tennis, lacrosse, equestrian and aviation. 

The collection is not specifically designed to bring light to these teams but to present a new approach to campus paraphernalia. The school’s current offerings feel more like spirit-wear.  Hamptonian’s goal is to brand the Hampton spirit in a manor that extends far beyond the physical “Home by the sea.” The garments are designed to be worn in everyday wardrobe selections, not only at football games. 

The creators didn’t just make a few graphic Tshirts, they wanted to create a line that felt truly authentic. They researched old Hampton yearbooks, poured through archives and found artifacts that are as old as many of the traditions that exist on the campus today. The result is a collection that borrows from a cross section of musical, athletic, and cultural influences. The first piece was released September 15, 2013 and features a 1970’s era African American Pirate sketch, the University’s name and its founding year. 

The heather gray sweater is available now online at hamptoniancollection.com

7 Books Every HBCUs Student Should Read

I will never forget the first time I used the “T” word in one of my history classes.  Now, before I go on to explain what the “T” word is, if you have graduated from a HBCU and taken any course in African American history, you should already be familiar with the term.  In fact, you would know that the use of words such as “tribe,” “village,” “Indian,” or other westernized phraseologies that undermine African cultural sensibilities are strictly prohibited.

Across many HBCU departments, students are taught to respect and appreciate culture, society, and the political and educational contributions of peoples of African descent.  More important, we are reprogrammed to put away western modes of thinking, seeing, and doing, in exchange for developing an ethnocentric lens for which to view and critique the world.

Whether it was Booker T. Washington in the 1890s or Spike Lee and The Cosby’s in the 1990s, the message is still the same: Black is Beautiful. At HBCUs, students are awakened to Black consciousness.  Here are Seven (shout out to the Jewels) books I believe truly awakens the spirit to Black pride.

7. Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery: The Autobiography of Booker T. WashingtonUp From Slavery

6. George G. M. James, Stolen Legacyurl

5. Lawrence Ross Jr., The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororitiesurl-1

4. Carter G. Woodson, The Mis-Education of the Negrourl-2

3. Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Realityurl-3

2. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folkurl-4

1. Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Ancient Americabeforecolumbus
What books would you add to the list?


Heart and Soul of the Movement: Influence of Historically Black Colleges and Universities on the Civil Rights Movement


Two nights after peacefully demonstrating for the right to bowl in a segregated Orangeburg, S.C. bowling alley, Robert Lee Davis lay on the blood-filled campus infirmary grasping for life.  Years later he recalled, “The sky lit up.  Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! And students were hollering, yelling and running. I went into a slope near the front end of the campus, and I kneeled down.  I got up to run, and I took one step that’s all I can remember.  I got hit in the back.” Davis was one of the fortunate survivors that night, now remembered as the Orangeburg Massacre, which took place on February 8, 1968 on the campus of South Carolina State University.  Twenty-seven other students shot that night survived. Three students including, Sam Hammond, Delano Middleton, and Henry Smith did not.  These students gave their lives for the movement.  Undoubtedly, the legacy of students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is intrinsically linked to the success of the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Rights Organizations. an outgrowth of sit-in movement had origins in conference at Shaw University. Apr 15-17, 1960

Civil Rights Organizations. an outgrowth of sit-in movement had origins in conference at Shaw University. Apr 15-17, 1960

On April 15, 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressed a crowd of over 200 students on the campus of Shaw University.  Speaking at the founding conference of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), King concluded, “The youth must take the freedom struggle into every community in the South without exception.” By 1960, young Black students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) operated as navigators of the rising tide of vast social and political change sweeping the nation. Although the juxtaposition of HBCUs into the Civil Rights narrative is complex, fluid, and understated, such institutions undoubtedly constituted the heart and soul of the Movement.

HBCUs served as institutions of solidarity.  Dorm rooms were transformed into meeting locations; quads became rallying centers, chapel basements transformed into training grounds for non-violent protests, and campuses banded together creating an intricate system of social networks.  Moreover, these institutions served as breeding grounds for the surfacing generation of Black leaders.


Students attending HBCUs such as King, Morehouse College, c/o 1948; Diane Nash, Fisk University, (entered fall 1959, received an honorary degree 2009); and Stokely Carmichael, Howard University, c/o 1964, emerged as key fixtures within the movement.

Preceded by his father and maternal grandfather, King’s entrance into Morehouse as a fifteen year old teenager, signaled the third generation of Kings to attend the school.  Of his Morehouse experience King recalled, “As soon as I entered college, I started working with the organizations that were trying to make racial justice a reality.”  High academic expectations and personal relationships also influenced King.  There he was introduced to Henry David Thoreau’s essay on “Civil Disobedience.”  He also forged lasting relationships with prominent leaders such as professor of philosophy and religion, George Kelsey, and Morehouse President, Benjamin Mays.  King’s Morehouse experiences brought him face to face with pressing social issues of the day where he “felt a sense of responsibility,” one which he “could not escape.”

Further north in Washington, D. C. students at Howard University continued to make their voices heard.  Out of the tradition of Ray Logan, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall, emerged a new group of students interested in creating new methods of combating Jim Crow.  It was an environment ripe for innovation, intellectual curiosity and social antagonism.  It was here where King, amongst many other students, heard President Mordecai Johnson lecture on civil disobedience and Gandhi.  A few years later in 1960, a young Trinidadian named Stokely Carmichael moved into Howard University’s Drew Hall.

Stokely Carmichael sporting a Howard Athletics sweatshirt.

Stokely Carmichael sporting a Howard Athletics sweatshirt.

At Howard, Stokely joined a diverse student body, which included foreign students from Africa and the Caribbean.  As a student, Stokely fell under the tutelage of esteemed scholars such as Toni Morrison and Sterling Brown.  His days at Howard were filled with activism and intellectual exchange.  Many of his peers spent countless nights at his Euclid street apartment formulating the blueprint for combating inequality.  Before graduation in 1964, Stokely joined the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG), the Howard branch of the SNCC, and marched with a host of leaders including the likes of Bayard Rustin.

Stokely, like many of his peers, refused to conform to the social stigmata which required them to be “nice, neat, clean, honest, and polite.”  According to Stokely, students felt propelled as they “grew more confident in our organizing skills, that we students could organize effective pressure inside the nation’s capitol, in international forums, and before the world media, to ensure that the U.S. government met its obligations to black education.”

Stokely recalled, “There can be no question as to the importance of the Howard experience in my formative life, but by far the most important element of that experience—morally, politically, culturally, and even emotionally—was the movement.

In similar fashion to Howard students, students across the nation at HBCUs were having much success organizing.  Still, not all schools were able to keep pace with more progressive schools such as Howard and Shaw.  State-dependent Southern HBCUs, beholden to state funds, and attempting to maintain a respectable image blacklisted would-be student activists.  Felton Clarke, President of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, for example, expelled roughly fifty student activists including H. “Rap” Brown.  Undeterred, Brown persisted in his efforts, joining Stokely and others in D.C. as members of SNCC.

Holistically, the rising tides of student activism at HBCUs were irreversible.  HBCUs from Texas to D.C. with or without support from administration contributed in some extent to the movement.  King recalled, “During the sit-in phase, when a few students were suspended or expelled, more than one college saw the total student body involved in a walkout protest.”  He concluded, “Seldom, if ever, in American history had a student movement engulfed the whole student body of a college.”

The cultural and political space provided by HBCUs casts students together in a way that could sustain growing momentum for the movement.  In this space, they coalesced into a more organized, militant agent of social change.  “I was convinced,” wrote King, “that the student movement that was taking place all over the South in 1960 was one of the most significant developments in the whole civil rights struggle.”

Title: Segregation, Civil Rights

Out of this space emerged SNCC at Shaw University; the February First Movement at North Carolina A&T; and the Nashville Student Movement at Fisk University. King characterized the impact of these moments best: “In 1960 an electrifying movement of Negro students shattered the placid surface of campuses and communities across the South.  The young students of the South, through sit-ins and other demonstrations, gave America a glowing example of disciplined, dignified non-violent action against the system of segregation.”

The Greensboro Four

The Greensboro Four

Check out these additional videos:

For additional reading material check out:

Clayborne Carson, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr.

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision.

5 reasons my PhD belongs to an HBCU

Freshman year- c. 2004 Dr. McClure- 2013

Top: Freshman year- c. 2004
Below: Doctoral graduation 2013

This past Sunday, I finally completed the last leg to what seemed to be a lifelong race to finish my Doctoral program.  Ironically, I could not shake the incessant urge to keep looking back. Perhaps it was to catch a glimpse of my family who seemingly filled an entire section at FedEx Forum.  Perhaps it was more symbolic.  Perhaps it had something to do with the understanding that as I ceremoniously walked into a new future, I knew that it was my past that got me up on that stage.

First and foremost, I am indebted to the University of Memphis (U of M).  My advisors, Dr. G, Dr. Bond, Dr. Smallwood, and Dr. Gasman (from UPenn) all invested much into my success.  U of M provided me with unlimited resources, financial stability, and challenged me to master the craft of a historian.  However, I would not have made it to the U of M had it not been for my HBCUs.  Here are five reasons why:

  1. Much appreciation to that Hampton waterfront where I met my "smiley face" aka my wife

    Much appreciation to the Hampton waterfront where I met my “smiley face,” my wife Tracae.

  2.        1.    Hampton University took a chance on me.

The truth is, I should have never made it to college.  Ms. Brint Martin, an admissions recruiter for HU saw something in me.  Whatever she saw was a trait that could not be quantified by stats or through standardized testing.  She saw something in me that most colleges would have glossed over.  What she understood was that Hampton also had a responsibility (and the reputation) to mold young people into something great.  Hampton University not only believed in me, they gave me a chance to grow and to be successful.  Ms Martin made me promise to make her proud… This PhD is for you!

       2.    “What are you going to do with a 1.75 G.P.A???”

Maximizing that opportunity took time, time I may not have had if I were at a majority institution.  Bad study habits; unfamiliarity with the rigorous demands of the college life, and immaturity landed me with a whopping 1.75 G.P.A at the end of my freshman year.  I was mortified!

I quickly realized that this was not high school and that receiving bad grades was no longer cool.  So many “Big Brothers and Sisters,” faculty (shout out to Professors Foster, Blang, Robertson, Watson, and Calloway), staff, and administrators, pulled me to the side to tell me they expected more from me.  They gave me the tough love I needed.  Still thinking I was going to pledge that following year, one big brother laughingly asked, “What are you going to do with a 1.75 G.P.A?” He reminded me that pledging should have been the last thing on my mind.  Needless to say, I maintained over a 3.0 G.P.A from that point forward (And I pledged Alpha!)

       3.    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

Life at an HBCU is a struggle! The “Hampton run-around” as we liked to call it, certainly prepared me for graduate school struggles.  We may not have had the most up-to-date technology, (maps or smart boards in MLK for example), comprehensive financial packages, or academic resources, but we learned to build mansions with stones.

       4.    I learned what it meant to be a Black Historian

At North Carolina Central University, I learned the long history of the Black Historian.  Here, the importance of social responsibility and academic excellence was reaffirmed.  I learned about the significant contributions of George Washington Williams, Earl Thorpe, Helen Edmonds, Sylvia Jacobs, Benjamin Quarles, John Blassingame, Hubert Harrison, and John Hope Franklin.  Moreover, I learned that it was ok to tell ourstory.

       5.    Benefits of the real Social Network

I constantly benefited from the social network that exists amongst alumni of Black colleges.  In fact, if it had not been for Dr. Arwin Smallwood, an NCCU alum, I probably would not have been accepted to the U of M.  There, I met other HBCU graduates from Xavier, Florida A&M, and Tennessee State University.  Without their support and camaraderie I would not have made it through.

Walking across that stage was a culmination of educational experiences.  I must emphasize however, that it was an HBCU that gave me an opportunity when no other school would.  Peers, mentors, and faculty at HBCUs provided me with the much-needed tough love and shaped me into the young man I am today.  My struggles gave me character and perseverance.  There I learned the craft and benefited from the vast social network.  I may have walked across the stage to receive my degree from the University of Memphis, but this accomplishment will forever memorialize my connection to Historically Black Colleges and Universites. 

StateofHBCUs Top 5 HBCU Presidents

Within the past few years, leadership at our nation’s HBCUs have come under a firestorm of criticism.  Last year around this time, there were approximately sixteen open HBCU presidencies across the nation.  This conundrum led University of Pennsylvania scholar Marybeth Gasman to ask “What’s Going On?”

My soul rejoiced this morning after stumbling across a posting by HBCU Digest honoring their top five “Greatest HBCU Presidents.”  Rather than pointing out leadership’s shortcomings, constructing positive dialogue concerning the breadth of advancements and accomplishments of HBCU presidents proves to be a much more efficient and productive practice.

So, in the spirit of furthering that discussion, I have compiled a list of my top five influential HBCU presidents of all time.  My criteria for this list is simple- those who demonstrated the ability to fundraise, those who proved to be academic innovators, those who resisted and pushed back against political opposition, and those who fostered an atmosphere conducive to community building, social, political, and economic advancement.

1.  Booker T. Washington: Tuskegee Institute, 1881-1915 — Ok, maybe the fact that I have devoted the past three years of my life to reading and studying everything about Washington does in fact have something to do with him being rated number 1…  In reality, he tops the list for his uncanny ability to fundraise, to recruit students domestically and globally, and for his influence as an academic innovator, which was and arguably remains unmatched.  How many of you could turn a $2,000 appropriation into a million dollar institution while fighting Jim Crow?


2. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson: Howard University, 1926-1960 — As a proud Hamptonian it kills me to name a Howard president in the number two slot.  HU pride aside, Johnson, the first African American president of Howard, moved the University from having zero nationally accredited programs, to boasting ten schools and colleges (all fully accredited), 6,000 students, and an $8 million dollar budget.  Through Johnson, Howard stockpiled some of the most intelligent and accomplished faculty ever to exist in one institution, names such as: Sterling Brown, E. Franklin Frazier, Rayford Logan, Charles H. Houston, Eric Williams and Merze Tate.  Under his tutelage, Johnson mentored and produced generations of successful and influential young scholars.url-8

3. Johnnetta Cole: Spelman College, 1987-1997; Bennett College, 2002-2007 — As if being the first African American female president of Spelman was not enough, Cole took her talents to help develop and advance the mission of Bennett College.  Two accomplishments help land her in the number three slot.  Cole has maintained a commitment to the humanities (Maybe another self-admitted bias as a Doctoral candidate). Cole became the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Women’s Studies and African American Studies at Emory.  Most recently, she successfully pushed for the creation of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History.  Secondly and maybe more importantly, Cole created a model of excellence and access for countless Black women.


4. Robert Moton: Tuskegee Institute, 1915-1935 — This spot could have gone to either Frederick D. Patterson, or Moton. Anyone attempting to fill the shoes of Booker T. Washington automatically belongs on this list.  Moton took over the presidency at one of the most critical moments in American history.  He navigated through, maintained, and advanced the standing of Tuskegee amid a rapidly changing landscape spurred by World War I, the Great Migration, and the emergence of the New Negro Movement.  Dr. Moton led Tuskegee to a multi million-dollar endowment, nearly doubled school enrollment, and transitioned Tuskegee from an Institute to a University.


5. William R. Harvey: Hampton University, 1978- present — As one of the most recognizable names in the HBCU community, president Harvey has created a “superpower” of an institution (Ok, maybe one more biased listing but whose counting?).  Although he has garnered a reputation as a “business man,” Harvey’s acumen as an academic innovator is also unparalleled.  Most recently, Harvey has become one of the most influential public advocates for HBCUs.  In 2010, Harvey was appointed Chairman of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  Earlier this month, Harvey used his influence to pressure Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to act in favor of HBCUs facing increasing financial crises.


Honorable Mention:  Frederick D. Patterson, Benjamin Mays, Mary McLeod Bethune, and James E. Shepard.  

Once again, this list is in no way exhaustive.  It is however, a reflection of HBCU presidents I believe have significantly advanced institutional brands, and contributed to their students’ social, cultural, and economic advancement.  We want to know what your list would look like!

White Saviors of Black Colleges? Samuel Armstrong and Hampton Institute

Were there white founders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities? Yes.  Does this fact contradict the legacy and mission(s) of these colleges? Absolutely not.  Following the Civil War (1865), the only entity with the resources and financial backing that could help accomplish this goal was the Freedmen’s Bureau.  Officers of the Bureau by nature were ex-Union officers, like Oliver O. Howard and Samuel Armstrong.  Were some of these officers self-seeking, sure they were.  However, the majority were well-intending Christians, honestly interested in equipping freedmen with the tools and training to elevate themselves socially and economically.  A major proponent of this idea was Samuel Armstrong.

Howard, director of the Freedmen’s Bureau appointed Samuel Armstrong to lay the foundations of Hampton Institute. Armstrong was born in Wailuku, Hawaii, to American missionaries, Richard Armstrong and Clarissa Chapman.  It was here in Hawaii that Armstrong was introduced to missionary work.  A major influence in his life was his father, as minister of public instruction, the elder Armstrong was in charge of building 500 Hawaiian free schools and schools of higher educational work.  This example left a lasting imprint on the young Samuel.  Of this impression he recalled, “it meant something to the Hampton School, and perhaps to the ex-slaves of America, that, from 1820-1860, the distinctly missionary period, there was worked out in the Hawaiian Islands the problem of emancipation, enfranchisement, and Christian Civilization of a dark-skinned Polynesian people in many respects like the Negro race.”[1]

Armstrong graduated from Williams College in 1862, and by August of that same year entered the Army as Captain of the 125th New York Volunteers.  It was here that Armstrong was first introduced to the Black race, taking command of the Ninth U.S. Colored Troops.  His first impressions were mixed.  In a letter to Archibald Hopkins in December 1862, Armstrong wrote, “I am a sort of Abolitionist, but I have not learned to love the Negro.”  This comment is important in gaining a complete picture of Armstrong.  Critics have categorized Armstrong as a racist, who was only interested in developing submissive industrial workers.  While it is true that Armstrong’s familiarity with Blacks before founding Hampton Institute was minimal, Armstrong’s perceptions of race rapidly evolved, maturing during his tenure as commander of Black troops.[2]

By January 1863, his views were steadily changing.  He wrote, “as Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel of the Ninth and Eighth Regiments of U.S. Colored Troops… my experiences convinced me of the excellent qualities and capacities of the freedmen.  Their quick response to good treatment and to discipline was a constant surprise.”  Armstrong was more ignorant than racist.  Certainly his two years experience working with Black troops completely altered his unenlightened and previous prejudices toward Blacks.  He concluded that their enslaved conditions were only preconceived barriers, and that they deserved as good a chance at making their own way as any other people.  By September 1863, Armstrong had committed himself to assisting freedmen in finding a place in American society.  As George Foster Peabody, the second president of Hampton Institute, recalled of Armstrong in 1918, “the work to which his later life was dedicated was not based on emotional sympathies, nor on traditions of abolitionism but on a maturing view of life and duty.”[3]

Armstrong was responsible for approximately 35,000 free Blacks, primarily for overseeing the distribution of nearly 20,000 rations per day.  His duties also consisted of visiting and reporting on the conditions of the freedmen, reuniting scattered families, settling legal disputes, and maintaining overall order.  Armstrong observed that “trouble was expected but there was not a ripple of it… their resource was surprising; the Negro in a tight place is a genius.”  These conclusions pushed Armstrong more and more to the idea of creating a permanent school for the purposes of educating the freedmen.[4]

After the war however, Armstrong found himself unemployed.  Armstrong eagerly wrote a letter to Oliver Otis Howard, soliciting work.  Howard obliged.   Armstrong was placed over the Fifth sub-district of Virginia, covering ten counties, with its headquarters at Hampton.  It was here that Armstrong united with the efforts of Mary Peake, and the “Standard of Excellence” was put into motion.

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute was initially created to fulfill a specific need as well as to meet a unique social and economic condition.  Armstrong’s plan for educating Blacks was, “to train selected Negro Youths 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.” Armstrong was vehemently committed to community building, and providing the means for Blacks to become self-sufficient.[5]

For Armstrong, self-sufficiency could only be accomplished by first establishing strong examples of Black independence.  Armstrong elaborated on this concept stating, “it was to be an institution where “in the home, or the farm, or the schoolroom, students were to have the opportunity to learn the three great lessons of life, how to love, how to labor, and how to teach others.”  It was to be a socially conservative, yet an academically progressive Institute.  Meaning, as students matriculated through Hampton, the wider American society would be forced to accommodate, politically, economically, and socially to the emerging “new Negro,” thereby forcing the creation of new opportunities and upward mobility.  Through this progression, Hampton would gradually come to include more and more academic majors to the curriculum in supplementation of manual training.  Armstrong wrote, “this Institute should, I think, be polytechnic, growing step by step, adding new industries as the old ones shall become established and remunerative.”[6]

By 1880, Armstrong had accomplished one of his primary goals of encouraging land and home-ownership, as over 60 percent of graduates from Hampton owned their own homes and cultivated their own farms.  Indeed Armstrong’s approach to eradicating social problems in America may have had flaws, but his methods yielded unwavering results.  One of his most significant contributions manifested out of the work of one of his students, a graduate by the name of Booker T. Washington.  Washington arrived at Hampton in 1872, and grew to embody the potentiality of what Armstrong envisioned.  Arguably the brightest student to graduate from Hampton, Armstrong contended, “If Hampton had trained no other student in the seven years of its existence, the one now coming to the platform would justify all the costs and the sacrifices entailed by its founders.”[7]  This prophecy proved true in ways Armstrong never imagined.

A year later (1881) Washington founded Tuskegee Institute.  However, none of this would have been possible without the initial help of Armstrong, Howard and the Bureau.  Whether we are looking at the creation of HBCUs or the Civil Rights Movement, it is important to understand the dynamics of interracial cooperation.  Don’t get it twisted, Blacks have always acted as agents and have been autonomous, however, we must stop criticizing institutions/people who have benefited from the assistance of whites.  We can always accomplish more together than we will apart.

[1] The Armstrong League of Hampton Workers, Memories of Old Hampton (Hampton: The Institute Press, 1909), 1.

[2] Peabody, Education for Life, 78.

[3] Armstrong, Memories of Old Hampton, 6; Peabody, Education for Life, 78.

[4] Armstrong, Memories of Old Hampton, 7.

[5] Peabody, Education for Life, 99.

[6] Ibid., 108, 116.

[7] Arna Bontemps, Young Booker: Booker T. Washington’s Early Days (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1972), 57.

Black College History Month: Black Colleges and Civil Rights, remembering the greensboro four

In honor of Black history month, every day for the month of February, we would like to highlight ways HBCUs have contributed to the larger American and even global societiey.  Without these institutions, the world would be a drastically different place.  It is unfortunate that so many of our contributions go overlooked and even intentionally dismissed by the dominant powers that be.

First and foremost, homage must be paid to the founder of Black history month, Carter Godwin Woodson.  The second African American to receive his PhD from Harvard, Woodson received his first faculty post at the great Howard University.  There, he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, published The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861, and founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (Shout out to ASALH, try to attend one of their conferences if you can, they are amazing) More importantly, Woodson mentored and challenged numerous black students at Howard and later at West Virginia Collegiate Institute (Now West Virginia State University).

The moral and intellectual training provided by scholars like Woodson at Black colleges directly led to the development of a new type of man (and woman) or what Alain Locke called, the New Negro.  An ever-increasing social and economic atmosphere of disenfranchisement, frustration of returning World War II soldiers created an extremely volatile environment in America, and pushed these “New Negroes” to find new methods of having their demands heard.

One of the first[1] and most important moments of the Civil Rights Movement occurred on this day, February 1 (1960).  Four students from North Carolina A & T University, in Greensboro, North Carolina sent shockwaves through America when they sat-in at a local segregated Woolworth in downtown Greensboro.  After being denied coffee, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., Joseph McNeil and David Richmond returned the next day with even more students to occupy the segregated lunch counters.  In spite of being viscously attacked, humiliated by having condiments thrown and smeared all over them, these students acted with dignity, courage and power.

(Most) Black colleges were breeding grounds for protests movements.[2]  No where in America (except the black church… maybe) were students from similar socio-economic backgrounds, who shared similar goals for their people, were easily assembled.  There were many organizations such as fraternities and sororities (Ice!) that were already established that could serve as nuclei of new protests organizations, or chapters of the SNCC.  Furthermore, students at black colleges naturally created a national network of communication.

Students at schools like A & T, and NCCU, Howard and others used these networks to their benefit.  That March, ten Black students from Wiley and Bishop Colleges occupied Woolworth lunch counters in Marshall, Texas.  Largely organized by, Rev. Harry Blake, a 1959 graduate of Bishop College, Blake had been influenced by SCLC President, and HBCU alum (Morehouse) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[3]

By the end of February, protests had begun in over 31 cities.  Thanks to the effort of black colleges (and many other contributors) by July, Woolworth’s had completely desegregated its lunch counters throughout the entire South.  So on this first day of Black history month, let not thier sacrifices and the humiliation that our ancestors had to endure be in vain.  Let us remember their achievements, the lessons they taught us and use them for good.

[1] Not considering the Long Civil Rights Movement.  Also, by first, I mean events to be nationally recognized.

[2] Administration at more conservative black schools often warned their students to avoid protest movements.  Schools like Spelman, Shaw and Hampton.  However,many students from these schools still participated.

[3] See Donald Sears article on Bishop-Wiley Protests movement