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Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, William & Mary receive grant to move, revitalize key piece of history

The Bray School is believed to be the only remaining colonial school building that was created to educate Black children.

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and William & Mary recently received a $5 million grant to revitalize and restore a key piece of colonial American history. 

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation donated the money to the Williamsburg Bray School Project, which is being handled by both the foundation and the university, according to a statement. 

The Bray School was discovered after being hidden in plain sight in 2021, and it is believed to be the only remaining colonial school building that was created to educate Black children. 

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

The funding will help accurately restore and relocate the building. 

Once established and opened to the public, it will be a monument to honor the over 400 Black children, both freed and enslaved, that were educated there in the 18th century.  

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“This is particularly important today as our country navigates its way through these divisive times. We are very grateful to the Mellon Foundation and President Elizabeth Alexander for enabling us to partner with our colleagues at William & Mary to develop meaningful public programs while relocating and restoring this historic structure in time for the 250th anniversary of the Bray School’s closing in 2024,” Fleet said. 

The building will be moved towards the end of 2022 and into the beginning of 2023. 

“The Williamsburg Bray School Project monumentalizes significant small acts of liberation in our country’s history — those of enslaved and free Black children learning to read and write at a time and in a place where formal schooling was rare and Black potential was suppressed,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the president of the Mellon Foundation. 

“By restoring the Bray School, we restore our knowledge of the vital stories of the Bray School children, of the families and friends to whom the children brought their learning, and of the capacious power of education. We are honored to support this work with the Monuments Project, which aims to elevate and celebrate stories like these throughout the United States.”

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