A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s

In September 1861, as the Civil War raged, free black teacher Mary Smith Peake began conducting classes under a large oak tree two miles from Fortress Monroe. It was still illegal under Virginia law to teach slaves or free blacks to read or write. Peake's lessons are considered the first classes at what is now Hampton University, a historically black college.


Image: From Mary S. Peake, the Colored Teacher at Fortress Monroe by Rev. Lewis C. Lockwood, 1862.

© Susan VanHecke 2024