On November 11, 2019, political and community icon, Dr. Mary Robinson Taylor Christian was called home from labor to reward. A native of Hampton, Virginia, she was born into the fellowship of First Baptist Church, one of the Contraband churches founded by newly freedpeople in 1863. After finishing the historic Phenix High School, she married and had two children.
She began her distinguished academic career at Hampton Institute (now University). Dr. Christian helped form the Community Progress Community, a leading voter activist organization. As a school teacher, she taught hundreds of children in the city, and earned the distinction of becoming the first African American woman elected to the School Board. (She followed William Mason Cooper, who was the first African American elected to the Board.) At Hampton University, she served as Director and rose to the position of Dean of the School of Education in 1980, before retiring as Professor Emeritus.
As a political activist, she worked on many political campaigns, serving as campaign manager on four political campaigns because deciding to enter politics herself. In 1985, Dr. Christian was the first African American and first female from Hampton to be elected to the state legislature, post Reconstruction. She went on to serve nine consecutive terms representing Virginia’s 92 House District.
In the 1990s, Dr. Christian galvanized community momentum through her preservation efforts of historic African American cemeteries. This effort continues today and is one of the flagship goals of the Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation, which she founded in 2013. Dr. Christian envisioned the Foundation’s work to not only renovate the historic Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs Headquarters , but to maintain preservation efforts of historic cemeteries and purchase cemetery signage. She envisioned the headquarters as a place of youth mentoring development and a space for community meetings. Dr. Christian also had plans to develop new initiatives at the site of the historic Virginia School for Deaf, Blind and Multi-Disabled. This work will continue.
Please pray for her husband and family. Pause as you read this press release for such an icon who gave her all, to all who would receive her goodness.