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Colonial Williamsburg and William & Mary Announce Bray School Relocation and Joint Research Initiative

WILLIAMSBURG-Eight months after researchers from Colonial Williamsburg and the College William & Mary announced they had identified the original Williamsburg Bray School – and four months after the researchers conclusively verified its identity – the two organizations announced the site of the building’s future home on the living-history museum’s historic campus, where it will become a central point of interpretive focus in the foundation’s ongoing efforts to tell a more complete story of 18th-century America.

Renovations performed over the years had concealed the original structure of the small, white building currently situated at 524 Prince George St., two blocks east of its original location at the intersection of North Boundary and Prince George streets, according to a joint statement.

Williamsburg Bray School is thought to be the oldest building in existence in the northern hemisphere used for educating enslaved and free Black children.

The two educational organizations announced the formation of a joint research initiative to document the history of the school and its students, which will lead to new interpretive programming that explores the complicated history of this 18th-century institution dedicated to the education of Black children.

The newly formed Bray School Board voted unanimously Sept. 13 to approve Colonial Williamsburg’s purchase of the building, remove the modern additions to the building, and transport it to its permanent home at the northwest corner of the intersection of Francis and South Nassau streets, where it will be restored to its original state and used in the foundation’s public history programming.

“This partnership between William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg promises to transform our nation’s understanding of the intertwined histories of race, slavery, education, and religion in America,” said William & Mary President Katherine A. Rowe. “Each intersects in the story of the Bray School. Bray School research will illuminate what it means to educate justly — William & Mary’s commitment for all times coming.”

Upon its arrival, the Williamsburg Bray School will become the 89th original structure on Colonial Williamsburg’s campus — the first addition to the foundation’s collection of historic buildings since the 1960s. The foundation anticipates restoring this nationally significant structure by 2024.

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