A (Late) Start

It seems so strange that I am already so deep into my research on the Bray School. I feel like I have been neglecting this blog, but time has truly been flying! To make up for it, I’m going to do a little 3-part series of blog posts: first, how I set myself up to hunker down in Special Collections at Swem, then a few of the things I found while doing primary source research, and finally an overview of some of the secondary sources I’ve been looking at. Today, I start looking through the microfilms of the Virginia Gazette, and it is my firm goal to write a post the instant I’ve finished them!

Ok. Rewind, back in time to the middle of June (I know, I know, my timing is terrible). Just to do a quick summary, my research this summer is aimed at discovering more about the Bray School, a Christian school for African Americans which was present in Williamsburg in the second half of the eighteenth century.

So far, I have mostly been laying the ground work for what looks to be a promising adventure. I sent out emails to Terry Meyers, the expert-apparent on the Bray School, as well as Jody Allen (the Lemon Project chair) and Ben Bromley (my contact at Special Collections). By now I have a standing appointment with the lovely people at SCRC, and a usual table to boot.

When I first started out, I decided before I just showed up at SCRC I should do a little digging into what information is already circulating surrounding the Bray School. Cursory investigations actually revealed a great deal– Terry Meyers has been researching the Bray school for well over a decade now, and other authors from other eras have discussed it as well. Apparently, the Bray school has been no secret. So why hadn’t I heard of it until I stumbled across an announcement on the W&M homepage earlier this spring? Something for me to ponder, I suppose. The most recent publication on the Bray school (that I have found at least) was in 2000– Jennifer Oast wrote a masters thesis on the subject. This means that I am the first person associated with the Lemon Project who will be examining a key component of the relationship between W&M and slavery, and the greater Williamsburg community. I hope I can live up to the task, and bring a truly fresh perspective to a fascinating moment in history.

I will post more tomorrow on what I’ve actually found out so far– there will be details on Oast’s masters thesis, and my own impressions on the Bray Papers (a primary source in the SCRC, which Oast consulted for her work). And then the Virginia Gazette, before my seven weeks is up!