<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Contraband Historical Society-Hampton Roads, VA

Contraband Historical Society - Hampton, Virginia 501 c (3) Non-Profit Organization


Vision and Mission



SOL Educational Module

Wreath Laying Ceremony
Honoring USCT Nelson Ballard



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Colored SoldierHistory
· Assisted the Union Army’s war efforts towards preserving the Union in exchange for their freedom.

· Resurrected the City of Hampton from the fire of August 7, 1861, which destroyed the town.

· Established and designed “the Grand Contraband Camp” in the heart of what is now called downtown Hampton.

· Named several streets within the Grand Contraband Camp: Grant Street, Lincoln Street, Union Street, and Liberty Street (now Armistead Avenue).

· Established one of the nation’s first self-contained Black Communities in 1861. Creating businesses, churches, schools, financial institutions and social order in the new community.

Preserving a Legacy in Hampton: Prelude to Freedom...

The legacy of the Contraband Slaves speaks of a determined people; a spiritual people who were forced to adopt a new way of life, new religions, new languages, and yet were able to use those awkward circumstances and experiences to elevate themselves to freedom while preserving the Union.

Burning of Hampton, VA

The Burning of Hampton: took place on August 7, 1861, to prevent Union reoccupation and the slaves from using the resources of the town.

United States Colored Troops

Colored Soldier

United States Colored Troops

United States Colored Troops volunteered for service in the Union Army. In May of 1863, Lincoln established the Freedmen’s Bureau. Brigadier General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, founder of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute was put in charge of the Freedmen’s Bureau at Fort Monroe. Shortly thereafter, Blacks were allowed to enlist in the Union Army. They became known as The United States Colored Troops, or USCT.

Rev. William Roscoe Davis

Rev. William Roscoe Davis

Rev. William Roscoe Davis was a former slave who was put in charge of Contraband because he could read and write. He was Mary Peake’s brother-in-law.


Mrs. Mary S. Peake

Mrs. Mary S. Peake

Mary S. Peake was the first Black teacher hired by, The American Missionary Association to teach the Contrabands. Prior to that she defied Virginia law to teach slaves to read and write in Hampton.

Mrs. Mary Smith Peake taught the first classes to African American children on the grounds of what is now Hampton University at Hampton Roads in Virginia under the shade of the Emancipation Oak.

Butler School

Butler School

Major General Butler, realizing the importance of educating the slaves, established The Butler School in 1862.

Zion Baptist Church, 1880

Zion Baptist Church, 1880

Zion Baptist Church on West County Street was founded by Reverend William Thornton. First Baptist Church of Hampton is located on King Street at Lincoln Street. It was founded by Contraband slaves in 1852 and is the first Contraband church. Bethel AME was established in 1864, Queen Street was established in 1865; these were also Contraband churches.

John Cary

Major John B. Cary, Principal of the Hampton Military Academy, went to Fort Monroe to retrieve the three slaves under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; which decreed that the runaway slaves be returned to their rightful owners.

Fort Monroe: Freedom's Fortress

With General Butler's interpretation of contraband Fort Monroe served as a haven for thousands of runaway slaves.

The Slaves could not turn back! They came from Shirley, Friendly, Berkley, Carters Grove, 200 miles out of North Carolina, parts of Maryland, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Princess Anne, (now Virginia Beach), Yorktown, Nansemond, Greyson, South
Hampton and many other counties.

Contraband Slaves


Grand Contraband Camp in Downtown Hampton

Northwest of what is now called Phoebus, the contrabands established “Slab Town” (near Old Buckroe Road and Chamberlin Avenue). After the burning of Hampton on August 7, 1861, the Grand Contraband Camp was established in downtown Hampton. The slaves named the streets there Grant, Lincoln, Union and Liberty (now called Armistead Avenue). The Grand Contraband Camp boundaries were from Locust (now Eaton Street) to the road to Big Bethel (now LaSalle Avenue), north to Mallory (now Pembroke Avenue), and south to Queen Street.

Grand Contraband Camp

USS Planter (1860) was a steamer captured by the Union Navy during the American Civil War when Robert Smalls, a Southern slave, managed to stealthfully steer her past Confederate defenses and surrender her to Union Navy forces.

Robert Smalls

For a short period, Planter served the Union Navy during her struggle against the Confederate States of America as a gunboat. However, as she burned wood, which was scarce where the Navy was operating, the Navy turned the ship over to the Union Army for use at Fort Pulaski.

USS Planter

Hampton Apple Tree Club House, Inc., a 501 c (3) Non-Profit Organization

Email: info@contrabandhistoricalsociety.org
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