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18th Century Building Used To Teach Blacks Is Moved

Special to the New Journal and Guide

WILLIAMSBURG

An 18th-century building on the campus of William & Mary was moved recently to the Colonial Williamsburg Historic Area. When it is opened to the public in 2024, it will provide an historical account of the education of enslaved and free Black children who were taught for 14 years at the Williamsburg Bray School beginning in 1760.

The building served as the original home of the Williamsburg Bray School and is likely the oldest existing building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children.

The move comes as an educational project of William & Mary and the Williamsburg Foundation. The building will become a part of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s public history programming.

William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe said, “The school has so much to teach us about our nation’s history, and many who shaped it.

“The Williamsburg Bray School Initiative, and research projects like it, are foundational to William & Mary’s core mission. We are fortunate to have great partners at Colonial Williamsburg and in the local community to help us tell its story.”

Colonial Williamsburg President and CEO Cliff Fleet, said, “Incorporating this building into Colonial Williamsburg’s world-class programming highlights this important piece of our collective history and allows us to share it with the world.”

Janice Canaday and her son Adam Canaday, who both work for the Foundation, have been advocates for the Bray School research. She said, “When most people think of African-Americans in 18th-century America, they usually think of slavery. But the institution of slavery was something that was forced on my ancestors. It doesn’t say anything about who they were and what they valued. The history of the Bray School and the stories of the children who were students there is a window into their lives beyond slavery. It’s a window into their hearts and minds. It’s an opportunity to connect to their strength of resistance, resilience, endurance, and humanity.”

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The Williamsburg Bray School is scheduled to open to the public in September 2024 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Williamsburg Bray School’s closing. It will be the 89th original structure restored by the Foundation and the first original 18th-century structure to be added to the Historic Area since the 1940s.

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