Wednesday, July 17, 2024

W&M to mark site of 18th century school for black children

 In this 2013 photo, archeologists search for clues as to the location of the Bray School. Armed with evidence that indicates its location where Brown Hall today stands, this fall W&M will erect a highway marker commemorating the spot. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Stephen Salpukas)
In this 2013 photo, archaeologists search for clues as to the location of the Bray School. Armed with evidence that indicates its location where Brown Hall today stands, this fall W&M will erect a highway marker commemorating the spot. (WYDaily/Courtesy Stephen Salpukas)

William & Mary will erect a highway marker commemorating the spot where evidence indicates the Bray School for enslaved and free African-American children was located, according to the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. The marker will be placed as soon as early fall on Prince George Street near the Brown Hall archaeological site, a dormitory that is located just off the edge of the main campus.

The university’s request for the marker was approved by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources on June 21. The marker is expected to take two months for the foundry, Sewah Studios, to manufacture.

The Associates of Dr. Bray, a London-based charity, founded a school in 1760. A Williamsburg location was agreed upon at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin, who was a member of the association.

The school was open for 14 years, closing in 1774. During that time, as many as 400 boys and girls received instruction from a teacher named Anne Wager. She taught the principles of Christianity, deportment, reading and, possibly, writing, although that is open for debate.

During excavation of the Brown Hall site several years ago, bits of about 40 slate pencils were discovered, leading investigators to conclude that writing was among the subjects taught. However, further analysis of the curriculum showed that the teaching of writing was never mentioned by the associates or their correspondents as a component of the skills anticipated to be taught in the Bray Schools.

When the associates frequently asked for and received accounts of the progress and accomplishments of the pupils in the Bray schools, reading, sewing, knitting, marking, catechism, deportment, etc., were referenced. Writing was never mentioned, suggesting it was not being taught. The titles of the books sent to schools by the associates are well documented. None are on writing.
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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