A College of William and Mary professor thinks he may have found the nation’s oldest surviving schoolhouse for African-American children.
English professor Terry Meyers believes the college – at Benjamin Franklin’s urging – was instrumental inopening the Williamsburg Bray School in 1760 to educate both free and enslaved blacks.
The find would be remarkable not only for its historical significance, but for its location in the political and ideological epicenter of slavery. The college itself was funded by taxes on tobacco harvested by slaves. The college, its faculty and even some students owned slaves, and slave labor built core campus buildings, maintained the grounds and fed the residents.
It also runs counter to later sentiments in Virginia and other Southern states, which explicitly forbade teaching slaves to read or write. An 1819 Virginia law made doing so punishable by 20 lashes. Read the rest of this entry »