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Williamsburg Bray School Identified

Monday, March 1, 2021

Virginia Bray SchoolWILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA—According to a report in The Washington Post, researchers from the College of William & Mary have confirmed that a heavily remodeled building on campus was once the Williamsburg Bray School, which was attended by more than 400 free and enslaved African American children between 1760 and 1774. Analysis of the structure’s original wood frame revealed the timber had been harvested in 1759. The four-room school’s primary purpose was to convert the students to Christianity. “Christianizing people was used as a way of controlling them to making sure that they understood their place in society,” said historian Jody Lynn Allen of William & Mary. The state of Virginia eventually outlawed the education and assembly of enslaved people because being able to read and write might facilitate their escape. The structure will be moved back to the grounds of Colonial Williamsburg, restored to its eighteenth-century design, and eventually opened to visitors. “It’s an opportunity for us to talk about another whole segment of society at the time of the Revolutionary War that has been more difficult to interpret because their spaces are often not still standing,” commented Ronald L. Hurst of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. To read about a community established by fugitive enslaved people, go to "Letter from Virginia: Free Before Emamcipation."

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