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Celebrating HBCU Founder’s Day: Hampton University

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In honor of Founder’s Day, we’re diving into some of the most storied HBCUs, and that starts with Hampton.

To tell the lively history of the Virginia-based university, we got Francena McCrory to chop it up about her alma mater. She attended the school and made a name for herself on its track and field before becoming the 2011 World bronze medalist in the 400 meters and was a member of the gold medal-winning 2012 and 2016 United States Olympic 4 x 400 m relay teams.

McCrory recognizes that it all started in Hampton and gives us a history lesson on how the school came to fruition after freed slaves rushed to Fort Monroe in Hampton amid the Civil War.

“Mary Smith Peake, a free Negro was asked to teach the free slaves even though Virginia law prohibited. Her first class was held under an oak tree with about 20 students on September 17 in 1861,” explains McCrory. “The would later be named the Emancipation oak tree and would become the first sighting of the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.”

The tree still stands on Hampton’s campus, a symbol of its groundbreaking history, as the school still produces notable teachers and professionals in the workforce.

Of those alumni is, of course, Booker T. Washington, who became the President of the Tuskeegee Institute at the young age of 25.

To learn more about Hampton University, check out the entire video above.