Historic Black Children's School Receives $5 Million Grant

This 1921 image provided by the The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation shows the front elevation of the Dudley Digges House in its original location on Prince George Street, in Williamsburg, Va. The schoolhouse where enslaved and free Black children were taught before the Revolutionary War will be moved from the William & Mary campus to Colonial Williamsburg and restored to its original state, officials announced Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.
Earl Gregg Swem/John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library/The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation via AP

A foundation has given a $5 million boost to efforts to preserve a colonial-era schoolhouse where enslaved and free Black children were taught in Virginia, officials announced Friday.

The money comes from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The New York-based humanities philanthropy is in the midst of funding similar projects across the country, which aim to promote greater representation of historically forgotten communities.

The Bray School educated hundreds of Black children from 1760 to 1774 in Williamsburg. The College of William & Mary and Colonial Williamsburg are now working together to restore and move the building.

The schoolhouse is believed to be the only remaining Colonial-era building in the country that was dedicated to the education of Black children. Its mission was to impart a Christian education along with a “deeply flawed purpose of directing the enslaved to accept their circumstances as divinely ordained," the university and museum said in a statement.

Researchers identified the building's frame last year. It's currently tucked inside a contemporary building on William & Mary’s campus. It will be moved a few blocks away to Colonial Williamsburg, which will incorporate the schoolhouse into its public history programming.

The Bray School restoration “will help us tell a more complete story of our nation’s complex history of race, religion and education,” said Cliff Fleet, the museum’s president and CEO.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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