On Permanent Display, Second Floor Rotunda
View on display the Pen of Liberty and the Military Frock Coat worn by Union Army Brevet Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong the founder of Hampton Normal Industrial and Agricultural Institute. General Armstrong was working in Hampton with the Freedman’s Bureau at the close of the Civil War. A commander of African American troops during the war and the son of an educator, he developed a strong interest in African American education. He proposed the purchase of a 120-acre farm called “Little Scotland,” located on the Hampton River near the area where Mary Peake had taught. In 1868, General Armstrong became the first principal of Hampton Normal and Agricultural School and he guided it for the school’s first twenty-five years until his death in 1893.
Emancipation did not happen at once everywhere in the United States and its territories. It came to different regions at different times. Hampton University successfully acquired one of three pens of identical construction which President Abraham Lincoln used in 1862 and 1863 to sign the three proclamations which emancipated enslaved African Americans. The Pen of Liberty although very simple in construction is a symbol of the strength and tenacity not only of the founder of Hampton but for the generations of graduates from this university and the members of the surrounding community.