The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, was founded in 1693 and is the second oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. In 1760, the Associates of Dr. Bray, a London-based charity opened a school for enslaved and free Black children on the college’s campus. The school’s stated mission was “the instruction of Negro Children in the Principles of the Christian religion.”
Records show that about 400 students were educated at the Bray School between 1760 and 1774, when it closed. Unlike other New World colonies in the South, at the time the school was in existence Virginia did not have laws prohibiting teaching slaves to read.
Excavations at Brown Hall, a dormitory located on the edge of campus, found 40 slate pencils and archaeologists believe that this was the location of the Bray School. As a result, after receiving approval from the Virginia Board of Historical Resources, the college now will erect a historical marker at the site.