Published by HarperCollins on June 9th 2015
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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.