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.
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 did not 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 of 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.
At once gripping, enlightening, and deeply moving, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is a dramatic chronicle that explores our troubled racial past and its reverberations today, and a timeless story about compassion, forgiveness, and the meaning of home.
Drawing upon extensive archival research, Resisting Brown presents the Free School as a site in which important rhetorical work took place. Candace Epps-Robertson analyzes public discourse that supported the school closures as an effort and manifestation of citizenship and demonstrates how the establishment of the Free School can be seen as a rhetorical response to white supremacist ideologies. The school’s mission statements, philosophies, and commitment to literacy served as arguments against racialized constructions of citizenship. Prince Edward County stands as a microcosm of America’s struggle with race, literacy, and citizenship.
Christopher Bonastia shows how the Nixon years were ripe for federal action to foster residential desegregation. The period was marked by new legislative protections against housing discrimination, unprecedented federal involvement in housing construction, and frequent judicial backing for the actions of civil rights agencies.
By comparing housing desegregation policies to civil rights enforcement in employment and education, Bonastia offers an unrivaled account of why civil rights policies diverge so sharply in their ambition and effectiveness.