Samuel Chapman Armstrong was the founder of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now Hampton University). A native of Hawaii, he fought with the Union army during the Civil War. Eventually, Armstrong was brevetted brigadier general. After working for the Freedmen’s Bureau, he recognized that African Americans needed greater educational opportunities, which prompted him to establish Hampton Institute. Among its most noted graduates are Booker T. Washington and Thomas Calhoun Walker.
His Younger Years
Armstrong was born on January 30, 1839, on the island of Maui in the kingdom of Hawaii. His parents, Richard and Clarissa Chapman Armstrong, were Protestant missionaries sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The Armstrongs arrived in 1832 and began establishing churches. In 1840 Richard Armstrong was appointed Kahus (Senior Pastor) of Kawaiaha’o Church in Honolulu. The church was made of coral and served as the national church of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Armstrong also served on the kingdom’s privy council and the House of Nobles. King Kamehameha III appointed Armstrong as Minister of Public Instruction in 1847, and, in 1855, he became President of the Board of Education. The educational model he established taught students faith-based citizenship. His teaching activities made him known as “the father of American education in Hawaii.”