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Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle (2015)

by Kristen Green

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1629171,767 (3.93)17
Combining hard-hitting investigative journalism and a sweeping family narrative, this provocative true story reveals a little-known chapter of American history-- the period after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate.

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Picked this one up because it ended up on a Washington Post list of best 2015 nonfiction. This book, in addition to being super-depressing, was a really strange read for me, because I have a good friend from Farmville and have spent a fair amount of time there. If you haven't read a work of nonfiction in which a small town you know well is described in clinical detail, it's a disorienting experience.

Green, a Farmville native, accurately and compassionately summarizes the history of the school closures in Prince Edward County. I knew a little about this but had not just not realized how important these events were to the civil rights movement. It's painful history to read about (I alternated between binge-reading and putting it down for weeks at a time), but there's also a lot of bravery and determination in this story.

Green, who is white, also discusses her own family's involvement in the school closures. Green's grandfather was on the board of the Prince Edward Academy (later Fuqua) and her grandparents actively supported segregation. I thought her exploration of their family's complicity and guilt was a lot less compelling than the historical chapters, as was her analysis of the continued racial tensions in Southside Virginia. Here, I felt a black co-writer would have been really valuable, because Green just does not have the depth of knowledge or experience to push beyond her personal regrets about her family history and give us a meaningful picture of how race operates in this community now.

Near the end of the book, Green interviews an older black man she meets in Farmville. I found his words to be the most haunting line of dialogue in the book - he says that Prince Edward County is waiting for his generation to die so that Farmville can become an upscale post-racial community. Of course, generational trauma doesn't work that way, although the new segregation of gentrified communities might make that trauma invisible.

This book didn't completely fulfill its promise, but it is absolutely worth a read. ( )
  raschneid | Dec 19, 2023 |
Kristen Green's book is at its finest when she talks about her family and her personal connection to a hideous time in our county and Virginia's history. The story of her segregationist grandfather and his role in closing public schools rather than integrate is compelling. Green attempts to uncover and reconcile a very painful time; a task not easily accomplished in a book. While the story slows a bit as she ties it to the larger Civil Rights movement, she grounds it back into the community and make her racialized past personal. A great read. ( )
  Oregonpoet | Jul 12, 2019 |
I got this book from Overdrive from my local library. I have wanted to read this book for some time but never seemed to have the time to do so. I finally decided to make the time to read this book. The book talks about the closing of the Public Schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia from 1959-1964. The book is a combination of history and family memoir. Since I am a Native Virginian and have a degree in History this book was really interesting to me. I really enjoyed hearing about the author's personal experience and this really made the book more enjoyable for me. The book was well-written and enjoyed hearing about the interviews the author did with the students who were locked out of school. A good addition to the Civil Rights Books that have been written. Highly recommend this book. ( )
  CrystalToller | May 25, 2019 |
Well-intentioned story of dealing w white guilt. If you know no history of the civil rights movement then it is informative, otherwise you are better served reading any other book about the struggle for justice. ( )
  kallai7 | Mar 23, 2017 |
5393. Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle, by Kristen Green (read 24 Jul 2016) This is a very personalized account of the tragic decision of authorities in Prince Edward County to end public education for the children of the county and use money to set up a 'private' school for white kids only. The author's parents were in the 'private' school when they were growing up and in fact the author herself was in the same school, although by the time she was in school there was a public school for kids regardless of whether they were white or black I was dismayed anew to read of the viciousness of pro-segregation people toward those whites who opposed the actions of the segregationists.. And I found it good to read of the change that most of the people in Prince Edward County express today. The Board of Supervisors in 2008 resolved that what was done by it in 1959 was wrong and expressed grief for the evil done to the children by the actions of the Board and the whites in depriving the black kids of education in the 1960's.. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Jul 24, 2016 |
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Combining hard-hitting investigative journalism and a sweeping family narrative, this provocative true story reveals a little-known chapter of American history-- the period after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate.

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