something must be done about prince edward county

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen GreenSomething Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green
Published by HarperCollins on June 9th 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 336
Buy from IndieBound


Following the Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, America’s public schools were instructed to work toward desegregation “with all deliberate speed”. However, in Prince Edward County, Virginia, the law was intentionally ignored through the closing of the county’s public schools. Rather than desegregate, White leaders in the community gathered together to keep the county’s public schools closed for close to a decade and ran a private, segregated academy in their place.

Rather than set aside knowledge of her family’s role in Prince Edward’s massive resistance, author Kristen Green writes Something Must Be Done… as a blend of her family’s history, the history of the town she grew up in, and a retelling of the events surrounding the creation of the county’s segregation academy. Though her efforts to set herself apart from her family’s history seem slightly overzealous at times, Green is not afraid to ask important and necessary questions, both of herself and the people around her.

One frustration I often have with historical nonfiction is a lack of connection between past and present, so I was pleasantly surprised to see Green highlighting the structural inequality in Richmond’s public school system—a truth I see reflected in my own Richmond neighborhood each day. While I would have loved to see the present-day examples expanded upon, particularly to include parallels between segregation academies and the modern voucher system, that topic has more than enough material for a book of its own. Recognizing that, Green finds balance in noting how problems of the past contribute to similar issues today while staying true to the focus of her book.

Both carefully researched and thoughtfully written, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is a timely look at a shrouded history from some of our country’s darkest days.


  • This sounds fascinating and very timely. I might try this one on audio.

  • This one sounds great, though I might get frustrated by her crying “Not me!” all the time.

    • She was actually quite honest about her family, but it seemed like there was a little too much effort thrown into showing how far she sits on the other side of the spectrum. I can understand the inclination, I was just slightly put off by some statements (like pointing out/describing her PoC friends).

  • Amanda

    Oh that sounds really intense – I feel like this is another nonfic that would make me tear my hair out while reading

  • I really need to read this one; I took an class in college that was entirely based on Brown v. Board of Ed!

  • Kelly TheWellReadRedhead

    I had zero idea that PE County did that…wow. I think this one would be a very eye-opening read for me…I see all kinds of inequities in our school districts (especially city vs suburban in this area), but this is a broken system of another kind.

    • I’ve lived here for seven years and just found out about it last year! It’s really interesting how much it ties into schools today – Green does a great job drawing some parallels.

  • I’m a native Richmonder and had no idea that this had gone on in PE County. This book has been on my TBR since it came out, so I’ll hopefully be able to get to it. I’m also interested in the politics of the Richmond public school system and didn’t realize this book covered that!

    • I didn’t know about it until not too long ago either. The Richmond bits are a little shorter than I would have liked, but it was interesting to see that they were touched on.

  • I had never heard of this, but definitely want to learn more. Thanks for your review!

  • I’ve been hearing about this book everywhere lately! I do want to read it, but I may wait a bit until the country’s racial past feels a bit less raw to me. (Which I realize is a bit like saying “never,” but I don’t mean “never”, just a bit later on from Charleston and all this Confederate flag talk.)

    • I totally, totally get that. I finished it right before Charleston, but think I would have had to set it down if I was reading it when that happened.

  • Vasilly

    This is already on my tbr list. It’s amazing how far people were willing to go not to integrate schools. Thanks for reviewing this.

  • Christy

    I am definitely interested in reading this. I’ve been wanting to visit Robert Russa Moton Museum in Farmville, ever since reading about Barbara Johns and her part in instigating a student-led protest of unequal education (which became Davis v. Prince Edward County which was consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education). Does Green’s book mention Johns and/or the Davis v. Prince Edward County case?

    • She mentions it quite a bit! I didn’t know that multiple cases were rolled into Brown, so that was a really interesting bit for me.

  • I grew up not far from Prince Edward County (born and raised in Buckingham, and my dad still lives there). I’ve heard about Prince Edward Academy but had no idea of it’s history. This book is definitely going on my reading list. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

  • Although I was less positive in the way I described this, I agree that the author did a nice job of talking about the current state of Prince Edward County and how the past had influenced the present. I just would have liked even more of this of discussion :)

    • I totally wanted more of that discussion, too. I try super hard to consider what I want vs. what the focus of the book is, and I felt like overall she did a good job with that balance.

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