Did you know that Native Americans were enrolled in classes at Hampton University?

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Hampton University, formerly called the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, offered classes that Native Americans and black students attended together. On April 18, 1878, Native American students were placed at the Institute where they continued to study at Hampton until the program closed in 1923.

The program was created to “civilize” Native Americans and show them European ways by teaching students English, how to dress, the Christian religion, and proper etiquette toward their peers. Students also had to live with white families for the duration of the program.

Approximately 1,400 Native Americans from 66 tribal groups has come a long way to Hampton to be placed in a program created to become the precursor to the boarding school system. Native American tribes had their lands and possessions bare away from them during the expansion of the United States. Many tribes were separated, taken prisoner or did not survive brutal attacks and plagues.

General Samuel C. Armstrong, founder of the Hampton Institute, selected an imprisoned group of Native Americans from Fort Still to enroll, making them the first class in Hampton’s Native American education program. At the time, reservation schools like Hampton were funded by the U.S. government and Christian missionaries.

Armstrong’s personal beliefs regarding the coexistence of Native American and black students led to efforts to separate the two groups from each other on campus. During this period, many Americans protested and disapproved of Native Americans and African Americans being educated, especially, together.

In 1923, Caroline Andrus, the last director of the program resigned forcing the program to end. Andrus said the reason for her resignation was that she could not prevent communication and the burgeoning relationship between African American and Native American students.

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