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The Emancipation Oak Tree is approximately 100 feet in diameter and it was named one of the ten great trees of the world by the National Geographic Society. The Emancipation Oak, on the grounds of Hampton University, was the site of the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the South. The Oak was used by Mary Peake as an education site; she taught newly freed slaves and mulattoes. Now the site is a place of memorial for visitors of Hampton University

  • The Emancipation Oak tree as it stands in its 100-foot diameter. This photo was courtesy of the Virginia is for Lovers website.
The Emancipation Proclamation was written by Abraham Lincoln. It was an executive order that declared slaves free in the south. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation also made it legal for African Americans to fight alongside the Union in the civil war.The Emancipation Oak Tree serves as the site of the first southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. 
       An 1831 Virginia law forbade the education of slaves, free blacks, and mulattoes. Mary Peake, a free African American woman taught the newly freed slaves under the oak tree. The first class was held on September 17, 1861 with about twenty students in attendance. A school was later founded near that tree in 1868 and it became the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute. Today, the institute is known as Hampton University. Hampton University has educated many notable African Americans like Booker T. Washington. 
The tree stands near the entrance of the school. On orientation days, one of the main locations that the tour guides take aspiring hamptonians to is the Emancipation Oak Tree.The sapling from the Emancipation Oak Tree was given to President Barack Obama after he delivered the commencement address at Hampton University in 2010.The tree is symbolic because it represents the struggle of African Americans during the Civil War. It also represents the freedom of African Americans because it is the place where they found out that they no longer had to be enslaved.
The 1860s in the United States was a troubled era, because the country was divided over the issue of slavery. The south was not in favor of African Americans being free. Many slave owners believed in Frederick Douglass''s theory that if a man could read then he would use it to contribute towards his freedom and fight for civil rights. Virginia was a Confederate state and almost exactly a century after Hampton was founded, Virginia closed their public schools because they were not in favor of an integrated school system. Today, Virginia is one of the most diverse states in America, their schools are integrated, and colleges like Hampton University are still pumping out some of the nation's best and brightest students.
"Related Information." Hampton University : History. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. "Emancipation in Virginia." Virginia Is for Lovers. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. Shalash, Samieh. "HU Tree Planted at White House." Daily Press. N.p., 15 July 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.