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Wed, 08.09.1865

Janie Barrett, Educator, and Welfare Worker born

Janie Barrett

*On this date, Janie Porter Barrett was born in 1865.  She was a Black welfare worker and educator.

The daughter of former slaves, born in Athens, Ga., Barrett grew up largely in the home of a cultured white family who employed her mother.  She graduated from Hampton Institute (Virginia) in 1884 and worked for five years as a teacher before establishing an informal daycare school in her home in Hampton.  Her school grew rapidly, and in 1890 it was formally organized as the Locust Street Social Settlement, the nation's first settlement house for Blacks.  In 1902 she and her husband built a separate structure on their property to house the settlement's numerous activities, which included clubs, classes in domestic skills, and recreation; many of these activities were funded by Northern philanthropists.

In 1908 Barrett founded and became president of the Virginia State Federation of Colored Women's Clubs. Through the federation, she worked to raise money for a residential, industrial school for young African American girls who had been incarcerated. In 1914 a 147-acre farm at Peake (also known as Peaks Turnout) was purchased, and in January 1915, the Virginia Industrial School for Colored Girls opened with 28 students. With help from many prominent social workers and especially from the Russell Sage Foundation, the school developed a program that stressed self-reliance and self-discipline, visible rewards, "big-sister" guidance, close awareness of individual needs, and academic and academic and vocational instruction.

In 1915 Barrett became the school's superintendent. She conducted the parole system by which girls who demonstrated sufficient responsibility were placed in carefully selected foster homes, given employment, and supported by such follow-up services as ministerial direction, a newsletter (The Booster), and personal letters.  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 died in 1948.  In 1950, the school was renamed the Janie Porter Barrett School for Girls.

To Become an Elementary School Teacher



Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia
Volumes 1 and 2, edited by Darlene Clark Hine
Copyright 1993, Carlson Publishing Inc., Brooklyn, New York
ISBN 0-926019-61-9

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