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At William & Mary, a school for free and enslaved Black children is rediscovered [washingtonpost.com]

 

By Joe Heim, The Washington Post, February 24, 2021

It has been more than a decade since academics and researchers began taking a closer look at a small, unremarkable old building on the campus of the College of William & Mary to see if maybe it had a more important story to tell.

Archives were scoured. Centuries-old letters and memoirs were pored over. Archaeological digs were made. Last year, a scientific analysis of the building’s original wood framing nailed down the year of its construction.

With the pieces of the puzzle in place, there was no longer doubt about the building’s identity. Underneath all the coats of paint and interior remodeling and exterior additions was the original Williamsburg Bray School, a school for enslaved and free Black children in Williamsburg that operated from 1760 to 1774. It is, according to William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg Foundation officials, β€œlikely the oldest extant building in the United States dedicated to the education of Black children.”

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As a graduate of William & Mary, I struggle with the history of the College and with its intimate connection with a tourist destination (Colonial Williamsburg) founded with the expressed goal of reinforcing a very specific (racist & biased) narrative of American history. I am heartened when I see evidence that the W&M community is taking stock of its past. I am curious to see how this will inform its future.

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