Union General Samuel Chapman Armstrong founded the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in 1868, planning to gather there the South’s most promising black students. Armstrong created a strong educational program to produce teachers and leaders. Founded when nine out of ten African Americans were illiterate due to laws that had prohibited the teaching of slaves, Hampton was devoted to teacher training, industrial training, and a combined instruction curriculum in agricultural and mechanical skills, with a strong academic emphasis.
In 1903-04 the school expanded from a three-year to a four-year degree program. In 1916 Hampton received accreditation as a four-year secondary school. In 1922 and 1928, the first bachelor’s degrees were awarded and the first graduate students admitted. Hampton’s self-help philosophy and emphasis on vocational education were important influences in Central Virginia. By 1890, one third of Lynchburg’s African American teachers were Hampton graduates.