This essay explores historical interpretation or categorizations of Hampton Institute as a vocational project in order to reassert liberal arts as an underlying philosophical tenet of the founding and early history of this now venerated historically Black university. Today, Hampton’s educational mission and its museum are understood to be within the liberal arts tradition. This essay argues Hampton’s nineteenth-century founding ethos also situates the university and museum within the spirit of liberal arts education, even where vocational or manual labor components of its early curriculum may have been defining in early twentieth century historical interpretations of the institution’s mission and purpose. Contributions of the Hampton University Museum throughout its history give readers insight into the Hampton tradition of educating hand, heart, and mind and speak to the university’s 150-year engagement with liberal arts.
Reassessing the Vocational Origins of Hampton University and Celebrating a Singular History of Arts Engagement
John S. Welch, PhD, is currently a consultant-contractor with the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Office of Strategic Partnerships where he engages writing and editing projects on behalf of the unit and serves as Strategic Communications Coordinator. Welch is also an ongoing consultant with the Hampton University Museum, where he serves as guest editor for its International Review of African American Art (IRAAA) and as assistant editor for its online publication, IRAAA+, authoring and editing articles, interviews, and other materials.
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John S. Welch; Reassessing the Vocational Origins of Hampton University and Celebrating a Singular History of Arts Engagement. The Public Historian 1 August 2018; 40 (3): 107–141. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.3.107
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