Mary Smith (nee Kelsey) Peake (1823-1862), an American teacher and humanitarian, is best known for having taught children of former slaves under the Emancipation Oak tree in 1861, the first educational effort from which grew Hampton University. She was a free citizen of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Her father was an Englishman and her mother was a free black woman. When Mary was six, her mother sent her to Alexandria (then part of the District of Columbia) for the purpose of attending school. She remained there in school for about ten years, until a law of the United States Congress was enacted to the effect that the law of Virginia in relation to free mixed people should prevail in the District of Columbia. When she finished her education, she returned to her mother, at Norfolk, where Mary secretly taught slaves for years. She founded an organization called the Daughters of Zion. The focus of this organization was to give assistance to the poor and the sick. A book about her, Mary S. Peake: The Colored Teacher at Fortress Monroe was written shortly after her death by Reverend Lewis Conger Lockwood (1815-1904).
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