About Us

  BPF RenovationsFeb2017 2
  The Virginia Federation of Colored Women Headquarters

The mission of the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation is to restore and preserve historic African American sites in Hampton, Virginia.

It is restoring and creating a museum at the state headquarters of the Virginia Federation of Colored Women's Clubs located at 123 Pembroke Avenue in Hampton, VA.

It will continue upgrading and securing signage for historic cemeteries, and develop new educational and cultural initiatives at the former Virginia School for Deaf, Blind and Multi-Disabled at Hampton.

Our Namesakes

The BPF is named after two historic and legendary women who contributed immensely to the Hampton community, Mrs. Janie Porter Barrett and Mrs. Mary Smith Kelsey Peake.

Janie Porter Barrett

JaniePorterBarrettMrs. Janie Porter Barrett was born on August 9, 1865 in Athens, Georgia. She matriculated to Hampton Institute, graduating in 1884. She married Harris Barrett, and, in 1890, she founded the Locust Street Settlement, the first settlement house for Black people. The Barretts were very active in the community and were members of the historic First Baptist Church in Hampton. Barrett would personally petition the court system to turn over delinquent and abandoned girls into her custody. Also, as a social reformer and club woman, she helped create the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, which was a major state organization with city chapters. Through the Federation, they raised money for a residential industrial school for young African American girls. In 1914, a 147 acre farm at Peaks Turnout in Hanover County was purchased, and in 1915, the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls opened with 28 students. This school stressed domestic skills, education, self-reliance and discipline. Barrett became the school's first superintendent, and she closely monitored the girls who performed sufficiently well the goals of the School. She shouldered the responsibility to carefully select foster homes, employment, and follow-up services required. In 1920 the state of Virginia assumed financial responsibility for the school. Supervision was shared by the state and the women's club federation until 1942, when it became solely a function of the Virginia Department of Welfare and Institutions. Barrett retired as superintendent in 1940, and her legacy would be venerated as in 1950, the school was renamed The Janie Porter Barrett School for Girls.

Barrett died on August 27, 1948, at the age of 83, and is buried next to her husband, at the historic Elmerton Cemetery in Hampton.

Mary Smith Kelsey Peake


Mrs. Mary Smith Kelsey Peake was born 1823 in Norfolk, Virginia. Born free, she was the daughter of a free Black woman and an Englishman. When she was six, she attended a school for Black children in Alexandria, Virginia. She returned to Norfolk and was affiliated with the historic First Baptist Church, Bute Street. After her family moved to Hampton in 1847, she was a dressmaker and teacher of Blacks in her home. She helped start a benevolent organization called the Daughters of Zion, which provided aid to the poor and infirmed. In 1851, she married Thomas Peake, was a Union dispatcher. In 1861, thousands of Black people escaping enslavement, found refuge at Fort Monroe in Hampton. Working with the American Missionary Association, she defied laws which prohibited Blacks from receiving an education. She started a school on the present grounds of Hampton University, under what is now called Emancipation Oak. Peake taught dozens of students, several who would become leaders in the Hampton community.

She died of tuberculosis on February 22, 1862, at the age of 39. Mary Smith Peake is buried next to her husband, at the historic Elmerton Cemetery in Hampton.

Our Co-directors

Dr.ChristianDelegate Mary T. Christian, Ph.D. (Ret)

(Note: Dr. Christian passed away on Novenber 11, 2019)

Dr. Christian retired after serving as a member of the House of Delegates for 18 years. During her tenure she was a member of the following committees: Appropriations, Conservation and Natural Resources; Education; Labor and Commerce; Militia and Police; and Rules. Dr. Christian was one of the first African Americans appointed to the House Appropriations Committee. In addition, Dr. Christian was an ardent supporter of education and healthcare legislation.

Dr. Christian received her Ph.D. in 1967 at Michigan State University with a major in Elementary Education and cognate in Special Education. Her M.A. was received from Columbia University in 1960 with a major in Speech and Drama. In 1955, Dr. Christian was awarded her B.S. degree from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) with Highest Honors in Elementary Education.

Dr. Christian started her professional career as a teacher at Aberdeen Elementary School in Hampton, Virginia. For more than 25 years, Dr. Christian was a professor at Hampton University in the School of Education. She retired as Dean of the School of Education at Hampton University in 1989 and is presently Professor Emeritus at Hampton University.

Dr. Christian has been very active in the community having served on the Hampton City School Board; Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus; Board of Directors, NationsBank; and the Community Advisory Board, Junior League of Hampton Roads, to name just a few. At the present time, Dr. Christian is an Honorary Board Member, Patient Advocate Foundation; Board of Directors, National Kidney Foundation; Member, Hampton City School Investment Panel; Visiting Specialist, Jamestown 2007; Board of Directors, Y.H. Thomas Community Center, Incorporated; Board of Directors, Youth Challenge; and Board of Directors (Past President) Peninsula Association for Sickle Cell Anemia. Among her professional and civic memberships are: Virginia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, Board of Trustees, Cornell University, National Education Association, American Association of University Professors, and American Association of University Women, Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

  - From the City of Hampton's YouTube channel  

Dr. Christian has received numerous honors, tributes and awards for outstanding service to the community and to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Most recent awards include: National Brotherhood and Sisterhood Citation; National Conference of Christians and Jews (now National Conference of Community and Justice); Cultural Laureate of Virginia Citation, Richmond, Virginia; National Patient Advocate Foundation Distinguished Service Award; Community Services Board Hall of Fame; and the Dedication of the Dr. Mary T. Christian Auditorium, Thomas Nelson Community College; and most recently, one of the Marys in the Marys Park in the new Peninsula Town Center.

Dr. Christian is married to Wilbur Christian and has two daughters and one son (deceased). She is a member of First Baptist Church, Hampton, Virginia and participates in the Christian Fellowship Choir, is Chair of the Constitution Advisory Committee and Chair of the Women's Ministry. Also, she is founder/leader of several local community projects in the City of Hampton.

Dr.FairfaxDr. Colita Nichols Fairfax

A native of Richmond, Virginia, African American Studies Scholar, Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax creates historical and contemporary data about African American culture and policy impacts, coupled with African philosophy in community systems. She has uncovered historical data about the contributions of African American women throughout the state of Virginia. Fairfax has researched the development of community systems in Hampton, Virginia, focusing particularly on the evolution of African American community, given the long history of Black people in Hampton. She has written a historiography entitled Hampton, Virginia. She served on the City of Hampton's 400th Commemoration Committee in 2010, where she presided over the rendering of the African image of the tri-partite statute representing three cultures in the city.

Fairfax is a Professor and Honors College Senior Faculty Fellow for The Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work at Norfolk State University. Fairfax earned the Doctor of Philosophy and the Master of Arts in African American Studies from Temple University. She earned the Master of Social Work from Rutgers University and the Bachelor of Social Work from Howard University. Fairfax is a national certified online professor. She resides in Hampton, Virginia with her husband, demographic consultant Anthony Fairfax and their two daughters.

Appointed to the State of Virginia Board of Historic Resources by Governor McAuliffe in 2016, and she is currently Board Chairman. She was Co-chairman of the City of Hampton 2019 Commemorative Commission, tasked with planning activities about the Arrival of African People in 1619.

An article about the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation from the (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot

Honoring women who mothered Hampton's children: 
The legacy of Mary S. Peake and Janie Porter Barrett

By Denise M. Watson - The Virginian-Pilot

The boarded-up house at East Pembroke Avenue and Eaton Street in Hampton is the roomy dream any mom would love, especially Janie Porter Barrett.

Before Barrett died in 1948, the social reformer would likely have filled its three stories and wrap-around porch with children to teach to read. To teach them how to pray, how to hold themselves with a pride that she knew from experience they would need.

The house is quiet now, rust-streaked and dark, in need of a loving touch like Barrett’s.

Two Hampton women have formed a foundation to restore the home in the name of two historic women who lived in different eras but had the same purpose of mothering Hampton’s lost children.

Our Webmaster

MikeGravatarMike Rau

Going back over 30 years, Mike Rau has worked in just about every genre and field of mass media imaginable, including the music industry, public relations, politics, radio as both a DJ and a talk show host, TV news as both an assignment editor and Web editor, and print media as a columnist for a daily newspaper.

Since leaving a local TV station in November of 2008 after nine years, the last two and a half as senior Internet editor. Rau has channeled his professional energy into providing consulting services in various aspects of mass communications to a broad range of clients.

Rau can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. His website is at http://asoundidea.com