More Evidence of America’s First Black School in Williamsburg

The College of William and Mary was the first college in America involved in the education of black students. Historians knew of written references to a black school for many years, but until 2010, we didn’t know exactly where the school stood. In case you missed the previous story from July 23, 2010, the frame structure believed to have housed the school still stands: Oldest Surviving Schoolhouse for African Americans Discovered on William and Mary Campus.

Archaeologists discover more evidence of first black school in America at the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

Photo by Joe Fudge, Daily Press

Now, archaeologists have discovered evidence of the school’s kitchen and another outbuilding, with more than a dozen slate pencil stubs. The complete story is posted at the Daily Press:  Remnants from a pioneering black school unearthed in Williamsburg.

I agree with historian Julie Richter’s comment that Williamsburg has always been a special place:

The more you look into the evidence, the more you see how different and unusual a place Williamsburg was compared to the surrounding countryside,” Richter says, citing records that show the owners of the Bray School students buying slate pencils and spelling books at the town’s printing office.

I think it’s likely that a lot of enslaved blacks in Williamsburg could read. They lived and worked in a town filled with words — and those words shaped their lives in ways you don’t see in other places.

If only we could know more about the lives of those enslaved students and if any of them attained freedom. I look forward to following this ongoing story.

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