Nestled near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, the beautiful campus of Hampton University has also served as a launching pad for some of the brightest change makers in Black history. The school was founded in 1868 as the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, later becoming an accredited university in 1984.
But its historical ties to emancipation, early slave education, Native American history and liberation run deep. Over 150 years since it was made a place of refuge and education, the school now boasts 118 buildings, 903 degrees offered and over 4,500 students coming from 26 different countries.
Below, see who attended this amazing HBCU in Virginia.
Clara Byrd Baker
The Black suffragette, educator and activist was also a proud graduate of Hampton. Baker earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, which equipped her for a career in uplifting women and children in the African-American community.
Before winning an Olympic bronze medal for Women’s 100m hurdles, this Hamptonian was killing it at her alma mater. She’s noted that running was an escape from her troubled upbringing.
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Alberta Williams King
In 1924 long before birthing one of the greatest leaders of the Civil Right Movement, King graduated from the Hampton Normal and Industrial Institute. Born in Atlanta, she earned a certificate in teaching but later gave up her profession to serve the church and raise her kids.
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Mychal Denzel Smith
In addition to being a noted journalist, Smith is a graduate of Hampton University. The New York Times-bestselling author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching won a 2017 NAACP Image Award nomination this year.
This hidden figure was an African American mathematician and aerospace engineer at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics that was succeeded by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958. She graduated with high honors from Hampton Institute in 1942 with a bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science. Her story was told in the box-office hit, Hidden Figures by Janelle Monae.
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The acting Surgeon General of the United States is also the first African-American Nurse to fill the position. She graduated from Hampton in 1987 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
Before he was a co-host of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, Raashaun Casey was a business major at Hampton University. He credits DJ Clue for introducing him to spinning records.
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This former ABC ‘Good Morning America’ weatherman, attended Hampton Institute where he majored in English and minored in journalism. Before going into boradcast news, he taught English at the Stony Brook School in Long Island, New York for one year.
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Booker T. Washington
It’s been said that great educator walked 500 miles to get to Hampton Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia, which would later become Hampton University. While there he worked as a janitor to pay off his tuition until he was offered a scholarship. He graduated in 1875 with high marks.
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Born in Virginia, the comedian attended Hampton University as a marketing major. Sykes graduated in 1986 before blowing up into a television and film star —who’s worked with Chris Rock, the Wayans brothers, Bernie Mack, George Lopez and many more comedians.