WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — A building believed to be the oldest surviving schoolhouse for Black children in the U.S. was hoisted onto a flatbed truck and moved a half-mile Friday (Feb. 10) to Colonial Williamsburg, a Virginia museum that continues to expand its emphasis on African American history.Built 25 years before the American Revolution, the original structure stood near the college campus of William & Mary. The pinewood building held as many as 30 students at a time, some of them free Black children studying alongside the enslaved.
Hundreds of people lined the streets to celebrate its slow-speed trip into the heart of the living history museum, which tells the story of Virginia’s colonial capital through interpreters and restored buildings.
For historians and descendants alike, the Bray School contradicts the belief that all enslaved Americans were uneducated. But the school’s faith-based curriculum — created by an English charity — also justified slavery and encouraged students to accept their fate as God’s plan.
“Religion was at the heart of the school, and it was not a gospel of abolition,” said Maureen Elgersman Lee, director of William & Mary’s Bray School Lab.
“There was this need to proselytize and to bring salvation while still not doing anything to destabilize the institution of slave …