In a town as old as Williamsburg, Virginia, which was established in 1638, it’s often the case that historic buildings with interesting pasts stand unnoticed and in plain sight.
Such was the case for the building that once housed Williamsburg’s Bray School. A school founded by a group of Anglican clergymen with the express purpose of educating Black children in the ways of the Anglican faith. It was an education that included reading, possibly writing, and the Book of Common Prayer.
In honor of Juneteenth, we explore the exciting rediscovery of Williamsburg’s Bray School with three scholars: Maureen Elgersman Lee, Director of the Bray School Lab at William & Mary; Ronald Hurst, Vice President of Museums, Preservation, and Historic Resources at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Nicole Brown, a historic interpreter, American Studies graduate student, and the graduate student assistant at William & Mary’s Bray School Lab.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
Maureen Elgersman Lee, the Director of the Bray School Lab at William & Mary; Ronald Hurst, Vice President of Museums, Preservation, and Historic Resources at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, and Nicole Brown, a historic interpreter, American Studies graduate student, and the graduate student assistant at William & Mary’s Bray School Lab, join us to investigate the rediscovery of Williamsburg’s Bray School building and the history of the Bray School and its scholars.
During our investigation, Maureen, Ron, and Nicole reveal information about how William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation identified the Bray School building and confirmed its date and authenticity; The history of Bray Schools, the establishment of a Bray School in Williamsburg, the schools’ work to educate Black youth; And details about the plans William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation have to physically move the Bray School building and restore it to its eighteenth-century condition.
What You’ll Discover
- Discovery of the Williamsburg Bray School Lab building
- How William & Mary and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation identified the Bray School
- Science of dendrochronology
- Thomas Bray and the Bray Associates
- Bray Schools and their founding
- The Church of England and Christian education
- Benjamin Franklin and the founding of the Williamsburg Bray School
- Bray Schools’ mission of literacy
- Why white Americans may have sent students to a Bray School
- Church of England’s desire to use Bray Schools to expand the British Empire
- The physical structure of the Williamsburg Bray School
- Day in the life of a Williamsburg Bray School student
- Educational differences for White and Black students
- Researching and finding records of the Williamsburg Bray School
- William & Mary’s Bray School Lab and its research
- How to read a historic building for evidence of the activities in that building
- Moving the Bray School from William & Mary to Colonial Williamsburg
- Historical restoration of the Bray School
- What the Williamsburg Bray School can tell us about colonial North America
- February 2023 move date for the Williamsburg Bray School
- Ways to get involved with the Bray School Initiative
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- William & Mary Bray School Lab
- Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
- Terry L. Meyers
- Mellon Foundation Monuments Project
- Maureen Elgersman Lee, “The World of the Williamsburg Bray School”
- Bray School Lab Blog, “A Reasonable Progress”
- Colonial Williamsburg Bray School Initiative
- Get Involved with the Bray School
- Transcription for Episode 331
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