[PAST EVENT] Porch Talk: ‘So Pious an Institution’: Slavery, Religion, Education, and Virginia’s Bray Schools

February 15, 2022
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Is education a tool by which we open doors to young minds, or attempt to indoctrinate them? How can education free someone, while also confining them? In what ways does education impact our understanding of citizenship? These questions all swirled around the Williamsburg Bray School.

When the Williamsburg Bray School opened its doors on September 29, 1760, it was the first official endeavor in Virginia to provide education for enslaved and free African Americans. Offering religious instruction in the Anglican tradition, the varied perspectives on Virginia Bray Schools were complicated and contradictory. Public historian and early colonial scholar Nicole Brown will explain the pivotal role these schools had on our understanding of the relationship between slavery, religion, and education prior to the American Revolution and the Second Great Awakening.

Bio: Nicole Brown is a scholar and interpreter of women in Virginia spanning from 1750 to 1800. Mrs. Brown graduated from William & Mary in 2013. Over the past seven years, the topics of religion, education, and slavery in Colonial Virginia have been the focus of her research. As of 2021, Mrs. Brown is completing an M.A. in American Studies at William & Mary. She is also the Bray School Lab Assistant.

Her work as a public historian has taken her across the globe. In 2017, Nicole was awarded a short-term Fellowship at the International Center for Jefferson Studies in Charlottesville, Virginia to research eighteenth-century women’s education. Mrs. Brown also spoke in Reims, France at the 2018 National Association for Interpretation’s annual conference regarding the efficacy of using character interpretation to discuss challenging topics. In January 2019, she was awarded a Gonzales Grant by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to visit the University of Oxford, studying the Associates of Dr. Bray and the Church of England’s involvement in enslaved education across Colonial America.


Sarah Thomas, [[setho2]]