WILLIAMSBURG — On Friday, Oct. 29, officials from Colonial Williamsburg (CW) and the College of William & Mary (W&M) announced that the Williamsburg Bray School building, also known as the Dudley Digges House and is thought to be the oldest known school used to educate Black American children on the Northern Hemisphere, would be moved from its present location on Prince George Street to northwest corner of Francis and South Nassau streets.
Around sixty people were in attendance at Colonial Williamsburg’s Hennage Auditorium as the presidents of both CW and W&M spoke about the historical and cultural significance of the school and its rediscovery.
CW President and CEO Cliff Fleet noted the importance of the school in the telling of American history, particularly as the nation approaches its 250th year.
“We have a responsibility and an obligation to tell our Nation’s origin story as we approach these anniversaries over the next few years,” Fleet said to the those assembled. “As you will see by my remarks, there are many things that need to happen for us to tell an inclusive and broad story and that is the work that we must embrace. As we think about telling our origin, we must talk about all who contributed to this great nation. Enslaved and free, women and men. No matter your ethnicity, creed or national origin.”
W&M President Dr. Katherine Rowe spoke on the newly founded Bray School Lab and its mission of uncovering the schools history. She noted during her address that the the Bray School project was just beginning to reveal itself.
“We are going to be peeling off the cover story of all the additions to discover what’s underneath,” Rowe said. “The lab is going to lead our work in peeling back those layers through inclusive and community engaged research.”
Rowe said the Lab was going to tell the story of the children who attended the school and shed new light on the education of African Americans in this country in the days of the Bray School through present times.
Moving forward, both CW and W&M plan to have the school moved to its new location and completely refurbished to match how it looked in the 1700s. The projected finish date is 2024, which will coincide with the 250th anniversary of the school’s closing.