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The Emancipation Oak stands near the entrance of the Hampton University campus and is a lasting symbol of the universityâ€™s rich heritage and perseverance. The peaceful shade of the young oak served as the first classroom for newly freed men and women, eager for an education. Mrs. Mary Peake, daughter of a freed colored woman and a Frenchman, conducted the first lessons taught under the oak located on the Universityâ€™s campus. Classes continued with the The Butler School, which was constructed in 1863 next to the oak. One day in 1863, the members of the Virginia Peninsulaâ€™s black community gathered to hear a prayer answered. The Emancipation Oak was the site of the first Southern reading of President Lincolnâ€™s Emancipation Proclamation, an act which accelerated the demand for African-American education. With limbs sprawling over a hundred feet in diameter, the Emancipation oak is designated as one of the 10 Great Trees of the World by the National Geographic Society.
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