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

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,448 ratings  ·  280 reviews
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 Ed
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Harper (first published May 19th 2015)
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African Americans on the Move Book Club
I liked this book. I felt like the author spent a lot of time trying to convince me that she wasn’t racist. Maybe it was because she felt guilty about the part her grandfather played in the closing of public schools. She kept reiterating that she has a brown husband and brown kids. She repeated that she herself has full lips. She kept telling us that she reported about the mistreatment of black people in college. She moved to a black town. I mean it just went on and on. It was as if she wanted t ...more
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, race
Growing up, I was aware that Prince Edward had once closed its public schools to avoid integration, but beyond that I knew nothing. I had no idea of the impact it had on the community. I can't believe we never learned this in my VA history classes in high school, especially since we were so close to Prince Edward County.
It took me a while to read this book. Every 25 pages or so, I would have to stop because I was so appalled at what I read. It took time to digest; and often I was grabbing my co
This is the interesting and appalling story of Prince Edward County, Virginia, which shuttered its public schools in the late 1950s, rather than integrating them. While the details of how the town came to close the schools and the impact the closures had on the local students makes for a fascinating read, the author's personal quest to make sense of it all and her pains to demonstrate her political correctness derail the effort. ...more
Alice Lippart
The story and history of this book is very much worth reading and learning about, but the authors presence in the story is overwhelming and the whole book sadly suffers very much for it.
Nov 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well-written, well-researched history of a civil rights event in Virginia. The author grew up in the small town, Farmville, where it took place. Her Virginia small town sounds much like the Virginia small town where I grew up a few years before the author. I like her overview of the other civil rights history. She also discusses her personal and professional life which adds an appeal.
Jason Anthony
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it
It takes the rare privileged white woman to make the story of the civil rights movement all about her.

Civil rights battles over desegregation must be told to children nowadays as these lessons are of the utmost importance and should not be forgotten. However, this wasn't the book for me.

The author is a privileged white woman with white guilt because her grandfather supported an all white school and (by default) the closing of schools to prevent desegregation in a small Virginia town.

While the
Paul Haspel
Nov 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: virginia
Something about the story of Prince Edward County, Virginia, has caused it to be overlooked among the landmark events of the Civil Rights Era. Perhaps it was the lack of overt, physical violence. When that small, rural county of Southside Virginia responded to the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 by closing all of its public schools for five years rather than integrate them, there was none of the brutal violence that characterized places like Birmingham in 1963 or Se ...more
Maya Smart
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Journalist Kristen Green seems born to write this particular and personal history of Prince Edward County’s legendary segregationist resolve. Yet her book, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, reveals the many ways her family and community groomed her to do otherwise–to look the other way as devastating racial divides persisted.

The story of her awakening is powerful. It is rooted in history that began before her birth but is by no means past. In 1948, the all-white school board of
Elizabeth Hall
Jul 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Kristen Green’s Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is compelling, timely, brave, and so deeply necessary that its presence next to me, its pages still warm from my hand and its messages stoking the fires of change in my belly, is palpable. This book is personal, in more ways than one. It is political, in more ways than one. I hope it tops the best-seller lists for months to come, for it is a book we desperately need to read as a nation.

Perhaps you have already read some reviews of
Oct 05, 2015 rated it liked it
The writing is unremarkable and seems heavily burdened by Ms. Green's desperate attempt to illustrate how different she is from her racist grandparents and her somewhat less racist parents. She let's us know she married a Native American and her children by this union are multi-racial. She even claims her children have been subject to slight micro aggressions based on their skin color, but if you examine the picture in the book, they certainly look like common white Americans to these eyes. And ...more
When I first heard about this book, I was utterly shocked, even as a native Southerner who has done a little bit of reading on the Civil Rights movement. How could this be true? How could this have been legal? How did this go on for so long? After Brown V. Board of Education, as the rest of the South either prepared to integrate or to fight directly, Prince Edward County in rural Virginia instead decided to close all their schools. Just close them. Seriously. Then the white families opened a pri ...more
Aug 04, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is an interesting companion to Go Set a Watchman as Green's grandfather, a Virginia dentist, was a member of the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties, a white segregationist society brought to life by changes during the Civil Rights era. After Brown v Board of Education, whites in Prince Edward County closed and refused to fund the public school system rather than integrate. For ten years, black students were locked out. This made me think of several parallels to slavery ...more
Aug 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm very familiar with the Farmville, VA area. Although I've never lived there, I go there plenty to shop for furniture at Green Front and have enjoyed several meals at Charley's Waterfront Restaurant (both mentioned in the book). It is with this passing familiarity with the place that caught my attention when I saw this book.

Green does a great job laying out the history of the battle over segregation/desegregation that took place in Farmville during the Civil Right's movement. When Prince Edwa
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
I'll give it two stars because of the historically important episode that's described. But the writing was uninteresting, and way too much self-indulgence and hand-wringing by the author about her grandfather's culpability and her own completely unrelated angst about having married a non-white. For the record, marrying an American Indian in the 21st century is NOT a parallel with the outright bigotry against Blacks in 1959 Virginia. ...more
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very authentic and well researched non-fiction book and personal memoir by Green who was born and raised in Farmville, VA in Prince Edward County. Green takes a hard look at racism, discrimination, decision making from 1950-2013 by white community leaders and residents, and the impact on blacks in Prince Edwards County. With the recent 2015 events in the South with the Charleston, South Carolina AME church assassinations and the outcry by whites in the South to retain flying the confederate fl ...more
I will admit some bias, as I consider Farmville, VA (the setting of this book) to be my hometown, and therefore I feel this story is more important than some readers probably would. But it was a personal story for me, in many ways, as I have much in common with the author, who is only a little older than I am. I attended the same school, I had some of the same teachers, I have walked that same Main Street many times. It is surreal to read a book and know several of the people mentioned in it. My ...more
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Something Must Be Done about Prince Edward County is the story of Farmville’s refusal to integrate their public schools following the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Instead, the school board opened a white-only private academy, leaving black students – and poor white ones – without opportunities for an education. Kristen Green is the grandchild of a man who served on the academy’s board for 25 years. Her parents went to school at the academy, her father was president of the PTA, her mothe ...more
Mikey B.
This tells the narrative of a region (Prince Edward County) in the state of Virginia where white supremacists decided to close the schools when the Supreme Court passed Brown vs Board of Education that essentially made segregation of schools illegal. Prince Edward County was one of five school boards involved in Brown vs Board of Education. The five school boards were used as prime examples that separate but equal (in this case education) was anything but equal.

The whites started to organize imm
Ellen Smith
Jun 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Many people have had the experience of returning to their childhood hometown as an adult and finding that their perspective and perception has changed. For the author, Kristen Green, leaving her hometown and becoming a journalist gave her a new perspective on diversity and race relations that she did not have as a child. In this book, she researches and uncovers the events that happened in her own hometown of Farmville, when the county closed the public schools rather than desegregating.

I think
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Having lived for several years in Lynchburg, Virginia, about 50 miles west of Farmville, I had heard of the closing of the Prince Edward County schools as a way to avoid integrating them. While I can’t say that much in the book was a surprise to me, I did find the stories of the individual children and families absolutely heartbreaking. It took courage for Ms. Green to write this book, an account of a very sorry chapter of her hometown’s history and one in which her grandfather played a part. Th ...more
Sep 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I think this is an important and worthy topic, about which I knew little before I read the book. It's also good in that the author looks not only at what happened back in the 50s and 60s, but what is still happening in small southern towns today. That said, it would have been so much better if the author, who is white and whose grandparents were involved in the movement to keep schools segregated, didn't spend so much time trying to convince the reader that she's much more evolved than her grand ...more
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting journalistic book about the segregation and shut down of public schools that still took place in Farmville, VA in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education. Growing up in Virginia, this is a part of history I was never taught. Glad to have read about this important part of my state's roll in hampering racial equality, especially with respect to education. Kristen Green provides a very balanced look at the events that took place in Prince William County during the Civil Rights Move ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Remarkably well-told account from exactly the right person to tell it. Kristen Green shares with readers the already riveting story of an important moment in Civil Rights and adds in a brutally honest look at the role of her loved ones, in that moment, creating a riveting narrative that explores long-term consequences, culture, and healing. Having heard so many people recently highlighted by the media fumbling with these challenging issues, I have even more respect for Kristen's elegant, earnest ...more
Catherine Read
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is about finding a way forward through reconciliation. Kristen Green writes a compelling book about a tragic and terrible part of Virginia's history. There are many Virginians who don't know the story of what happened in Prince Edward County or that plaintiffs from Moton High School were part of the Brown v. Board of Education case decided by the Supreme Court in 1954 that declared school segregation to be unconstitutional.

The author discovered that her grandfather was instrumental in
Kelsey Dangelo-Worth
Aug 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Kristen Green grew up in Prince Edward County, a small town where many happy and idyllic Southern memories were made. She also remembers her grandparents and her parents fondly. But Green returns with her half-American Indian husband and children in order to research the story of desegregating the schools of the country, and her own family’s role in—instead of desegregating—the town closed the public schools and opened a whites-only private academy, a school the author herself attended. Although ...more
“Farmville is still the quiet community where I spent long summer afternoons floating in my parents’ pool. On the surface, it is a perfectly charming Southern place to grow up, a seemingly wholesome town to raise a family.

That is, until you dive in.”

I have lived in Virginia for more than 30 years and I am still learning the history of this state. A lot happened here. The War of Independence ended here, as did the Civil War. Eight American presidents were born here and the commonwealth claims man
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
I saw this book profiled in "The Week" and thought it would be interesting to read. My family has been in Virginia for hundreds of years and I'm familiar with Longwood College, which is in Prince Edward County, I had never even heard of segregation academies until I read this book.
It is hard to believe that as recently as the late 1950s, people were so against integration that they would close the public schools in a county just to keep that from happening. And a county in the state I call home,
Susan Howson
Apr 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Really dang good--I selfishly wish she'd go more into Richmond's problems, but that's not the focus of the book, of course. I am going to the Moton Museum stat.

This book has helped me shape my own responses to various subtle and not-so-subtle racist remarks and actions we get from community members. The things that rankle rankle for a reason and staying quiet about them does nothing at all.
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this a lot. It's very readable and has many excellent, poignant details about the Civil Rights struggle for desegregation in schools. That Earl Warren wanted the Brown decision to be unanimous, which ended up meaning that the ruling was watered down to get everyone on the Supreme Court on board--no timetable for segregation. The conditions at Moton High that made the students want to walk out. The chapters on massive resistance are well-written: she draws together the anger and the caref ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a difficult book for me to rate because of my connections with the topic.

I bought the book at an independent bookstore in Richmond, and the bookseller raved about the book and author. I wish I had been able to hear the author speak. My husband's aunt worked at Longwood College for many years, almost definitely during the time of the closed schools, but I never heard her or the rest of the family ever speak of it. (Sadly, she is no longer here to ask.) My husband's older brothers were ki
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Kristen Green has worked as a journalist for two decades for papers including the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Boston Globe. SOMETHING MUST BE DONE ABOUT PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY is a hybrid of memoir and history. Kristen examines the decision by white leaders of her Virginia hometown to close public schools rather than desegregate and considers her family's role in this tragic history.


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“Separate but Not Equal The only places on earth not to provide free public education are communist China, North Vietnam, Sarawak, Singapore, British Honduras—and Prince Edward County, Virginia. —US ATTORNEY GENERAL ROBERT F. KENNEDY, MARCH 19, 1963, LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY” 2 likes
“Many white children in this city never set foot in a public school. They follow in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents, attending private schools from the moment they hit kindergarten. This private school pipeline contributes to the racial disparity of the public schools, the same way my alma mater does in Farmville. Richmonders, like many in Prince Edward and around the country, have effectively given up on public school education. And the abandonment of Richmond's public schools by white and middle-income parents creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of schools that continue to perform poorly.” 1 likes
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