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Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle Paperback – April 26, 2016
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“Both intimate and ambitious, this is a far-reaching account of the political and social history of segregation and desegregation in Virginia that also reveals the very real human costs of this history. Moving and clear-eyed, damning and hopeful: this is an essential read.” (Jesmyn Ward, author of Men We Reaped)
“In an intimate memoir, a journalist explores 1950s school segregation in a small Virginia town, its effects on the children there, and her family’s own connection to the racial divide.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“An engaging and well-written book on the impact of school closures, told from a unique biographical perspective. Green delivers a deeply moving portrayal of one of the very sad histories in American race relations. Difficult to put down and a must-read.” (William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University)
“The story of integrating American public schools has gotten drowned out by that of the Civil Rights movement. Return with Kristen Green to her hometown in Virginia to find out how people she loved and admired could have supported such injustice against children. You’ll be wiser if you do.” (Charles J. Shields, author of Mockingbird: A Life of Harper Lee)
“Mystery wrapped in history with a touch of suspense and personal horror: Kristen Green’s stunner of a book is a ride back into a past you’ll wish had never happened. This is historical sleuthing at its finest.” (Chris McDougall, author of Born to Run)
“Powerful. . . . The author movingly chronicles her discovery of the truth about her background and her efforts to promote reconciliation and atonement. A potent introduction to a nearly forgotten part of the civil rights movement and a personalized reminder of what it was truly about.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Absorbing. . . . A merger of history both lived and studied, Green’s book looks beyond the publicized exploits of community leaders to reveal the everyday people who took great risks and often suffered significant loss during the struggle against change in one ‘quaint, damaged community.’” (Publishers Weekly)
“Green’s work brims with real-life detail from the journalist’s eye and ear and joins the likes of Diane McWhorter’s Carry Me Home in further developing the dimensions of the South’s desegregation struggle.” (Library Journal)
“Kristen Green was born to write this book…..[She] deftly interweaves the personal and the historical into a compelling narrative that leaves no stone unturned….[N]ot only fascinating but cinematic…[A]n award-worthy book.” (Booklist (Top Pick) )
From the Back Cover
A Washington Post Notable Book of the Year
“[Green’s] thoughtful book is a gift to a new generation of readers who need to know this story.”—Washington Post
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to obey the law. Rather than desegregate, the county closed its public schools, locking and chaining the doors. The community’s white leaders quickly established a private academy, commandeering supplies from the shuttered public schools to use in their all-white classrooms. Meanwhile, black parents had few options: keep their kids at home, move across county lines, or send them to live with relatives in other states. For five years, the schools remained closed.
Kristen Green, a longtime newspaper reporter, grew up in Farmville and attended Prince Edward Academy, which didn’t admit black students until 1986. In her journey to uncover what happened in her hometown before she was born, Green tells the stories of families divided by the school closures and the 1,700 black children denied an education. As she peels back the layers of this haunting period in our nation’s past, her own family’s role—no less complex and painful—comes to light.
“Intimate and candid.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Not easily forgotten.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
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What ultimately detracted from the historical aspect was the author herself. For someone who learned quite late in life about how large a world there is outside her small town, I found her self-reflection & judgment on her family, former friends, neighbors, etc. to seem incredibly pompous. Perhaps it's just me, but when she interviews a teacher who discusses the struggles of teaching in buildings never intended for school & doing so with with meger resources, the author is quick to brush her off narrating that the 'real' suffering was the 6 year old who didn't get to go to school. In hearing the story, I personally want to hear from all involved. For better or worse, it's history. While there was certainly a great injustice to the black residents of Farmville, it became difficult to listen to the author's so-called 'white guilt' & her own steady stream of judgments as she continues on about how different & enlightened she is.
As she states, 'nice doesn't mean good.' I would argue that given the culture in the south at that time, there are people with good intentions who do things that ultimately cost us dearly. I don't see these people as evil—I see them as tragically uneducated & in some cases, simply a reflection of the era in which they grew up & a culture they never left.
I highly recommend this book as a whole. The author & her narrative were too much for mr by the time I was 1/2 way through, but as I said above, this is a piece of history that should have its voice heard.