Hampton University’s Emancipation Oak Threatened by Highway Expansion

The school vows to fight the Virginia Board of Transportation all the way to the state Supreme Court if necessary. 

Hampton University’s Emancipation Oak Wikimedia Commons

Hampton University leaders are concerned that their campus is being threatened by a Virginia Department of Transportation plan to widen Interstate 64 leading into the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

ABC 13News Now reports that VDOT officials recently met with university leaders to let them know that they may need to acquire some of their land as part of the proposed I-64 widening near the HRBT—and part of that land includes Strawberry Banks and the iconic Emancipation Oak.

The Emancipation Oak stands near the entrance of the Hampton University campus. According to Hampton’s website, the young oak served as the first classroom for newly freed men and women, also known as “contraband” of Union soldiers during the Civil War. In 1863, under limbs sprawling over 100 feet in diameter, members of the Virginia Peninsula’s black community gathered to hear the first Southern reading of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Attorney Joseph Waldo, who is representing the university, says that he will fight to make sure I-64 isn’t expanded any closer to the campus.

“They’re willing to fight this all the way to the [state] Supreme Court if necessary,” Waldo says. “Not one inch of Hampton University’s property should be touched.”

Waldo says that the university retained its own experts to show VDOT that the road can be moved away from the campus.

“VDOT hasn’t even considered taking down their own building,” Waldo says. “They would put Emancipation Oak in jeopardy before tearing down their own building.”

Read more at ABC 13News Now.

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