Bray School Enrollments for Free and Enslaved Black Children, 1758-1845

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Penn collection
The Magazine of Early American Datasets (MEAD)
black education
associates of dr. bray
african methodist episcopal church (AME)
church of england
absalom jones
benjamin franklin
colonial america
antebellum america
African American Studies
American Studies
Missions and World Christianity
North America
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Scholarly Commons, University of Pennsylvania Libraries
Related resources
Some of the lists have been published in John C. Van Horne, ed., Religious Philanthropy and Colonial Slavery: The American Correspondence of the Associates of Dr. Bray, 1717-1777 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1985) Van Horne, John C., and Grant Stanton, “The Philadelphia Bray Schools: A Story of Black Education in Early America, 1758–1845,” article under consideration at Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, expected publication October 2023
Stanton, Grant

Beginning in the middle of the eighteenth century, the Associates of Dr. Thomas Bray established and maintained schools for the education of free and enslaved black children in North America. The purpose of these schools was to introduce them to the doctrines of the Church of England, and also to instruct the students in reading and writing, sometimes even mathematics, as well as sewing, knitting, and embroidery for girls. By the time of the War for Independence, five such schools had been established in Newport, Rhode Island; New York city; Philadelphia; and Williamsburg and Fredericksburg in Virginia, though only the Philadelphia school would reopen after the conflict ended. Overseen by a series of white mistresses, this school was associated with Philadelphia’s Christ Church and would remain in operation until 1845. Meanwhile, the Associates supported two other schools in Philadelphia. The first was initially taught by the Rev. Absalom Jones and then by Solomon Clarkson, both of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. The second was in Northern Liberties and was instructed by James C. Ward, a black man ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. Throughout the existence of the Associates’ various schools, teachers and administrators sent periodic reports to the secretaries of the Associates in London, often including rosters of the students that recorded such information as their names, ages, addresses, curriculum, and (if enslaved) owners’ names. The files uploaded here include an Introduction with explanation of the Editorial Method; and all extant records relevant to the American schools’ students, teachers, and curricula between their first establishment in 1758 and the closure of the Philadelphia schools by 1845. Though many records are missing, and those that remain are often incomplete, these lists identify about 400 individual students by name (there were undoubtedly many more) and together comprise what is probably the largest aggregation of such data, one that will yield valuable insights into one of the few opportunities for black education in early America. N.B. There is a .csv file for each of 13 school or teacher spreadsheets and the Summary Spreadsheet. There is also an Excel file of the Summary Spreadsheet.

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