Black children were once educated at the Bray School in Virginia. The schoolhouse was much smaller than the schools of today. (AP)

Black children were once educated at the Bray School in Virginia. The schoolhouse was much smaller than the schools of today. (AP)

The Bray School building in October 2021 (Colonial Williamsburg)

The Bray School building in October 2021 (Colonial Williamsburg)

Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg watch a reenactor work land. (Colonial Williamsburg)

Visitors to Colonial Williamsburg watch a reenactor work land. (Colonial Williamsburg)

A tourist takes an old-fashioned ride through Colonial Williamsburg. (AP)

A tourist takes an old-fashioned ride through Colonial Williamsburg. (AP)

Moving School

Posted: January 1, 2022

Enslaved and free black children bend over their schoolwork at the Bray School in Virginia. Their teacher, a white woman named Ann Wager, shows them how to read, spell, and do math.

That was centuries ago—before the Revolutionary War.

What’s happening at the Bray School now?

It’s moving! The school building is headed to a new home in Colonial Williamsburg.

People forgot about the Bray School for a long time. The building sat hidden in plain sight on the College of William & Mary campus. Now the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has bought it. Workers plan to make the school look how it used to back in the 1700s.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living history museum. Living museums recreate the way a place might have looked in the past. Workers at Colonial Williamsburg dress up like Virginians from the 1700s. They talk like them too. If you make a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, you might see an old-style blacksmith at his forge. You might spot a brickmaker or wigmaker at work. Williamsburg actors portray what life was like back then. Each building you pass will seem to belong in another century.

The Bray School will fit right in. It is likely the oldest surviving schoolhouse for African Americans. Hundreds of black children learned there from 1760 to 1774. Workers should finish restoring the school by 2024.

Researchers have many questions about the school. What did the parents of pupils who attended think of it? Why did people start the school? What happened to the students after they graduated?

Why? God shows no partiality. One of the first schools for black children in America, the Bray School challenges us to think about how Christians must treat all people with dignity and fairness.