Sankofa Studies

The Hampton University Museum

February 11, 2020

Today’s Black History Fact is all about one of the most beautiful places at my alma mater, Hampton University.

The Hampton University Museum is a unique institution and a national treasure. Founded in 1868, the Museum is one of the oldest African American museums in the United States and one of the oldest museums in the state of Virginia. The collections feature over 9,000 objects including African American fine arts, traditional African, Native American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Island, and Asian art; and objects relating to the history of the University. Within its fine arts collection is the largest existing collection of works in any museum by the artists John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence, Richmond Barthe and Samella Lewis. The first objects were acquired from the Pacific Islands by the school’s founder General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who was born and raised in Hawaii, the son of missionary/educator parents. 

Among the Museum’s distinction is its collection of African American fine art. With the 1894 acquisition of two paintings by Henry O. Tanner, it established the world’s first collection of African American art. One of these paintings, The Banjo Lesson, is acknowledged as the most admired work by an African American artist. Hampton was the recipient of a gift of hundreds of work of art from the Harmon Foundation in 1967 which includes representation of most of the important artists from the Harlem Renaissance into the early 1960s. The museum also houses the Countee and Ida Cullen Art Collection, a group of 29 works of art acquired from the widow of the famed Harlem Renaissance poet. Among the most outstanding holdings are works by three important figures connected to the visual arts at Hampton: John T. Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, and Samella S. Lewis. Today the collection numbers over 1,500 pieces and is one of the largest and strongest collections of African American art in the world. 

Learn more about the Hampton University Museum at

You Might Also Like...

No Comments

    Leave a Reply