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Review: Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County

July 9, 2015

Something Must Be Done

Prince Edward County is a small, rural county in the middle of Virginia.  It’s about 63% white and has a poverty rate close to 20%.  In 1955, after the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, the county board of supervisors voted to close the public schools rather than desegregate them.

White parents scrambled to start a private school, but the poor, uneducated, and mostly black residents of the county were left with little options.  Some sent their children to live with relatives while many others simply kept their children at home.  When the schools reopened years later, those students were woefully behind and unable to catch up.

As a youngster Kristen Green attended that white private school even though the public schools had been re-opened.  She didn’t give it much thought until years later.  When she discovered her grandparents were instrumental in closing the public schools and opening Prince Edward Academy she decided to research it to see if she could understand why.

Green describes Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle as “a hybrid of nonfiction and memoir” because she relates the story of her family along with the story of this county – a story that I found fascinating and relevant to today’s news.  Green says,

. . . 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.

Through meticulous research, Green tells the story in an unflinching and honest way, even when her family is cast in an unflattering light.  Closing the schools destroyed families and lives, most of which were never able to recover.  Attending an all white school affected her views on race – views she’s worked hard to shed.

I couldn’t put Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County down even as I was horrified by it.  I think part of the reason I was so drawn to this story was because I grew up in an urban area of Virginia when the schools in that state were being desegregated.   While the schools where I lived were never closed, I did witness “white flight”  by many, including some friends, to both the suburbs and private schools.   My sister and I remained in the public schools and I never gave it much thought until I read this book.  I spoke to my mom about it and asked her if she and my dad ever considered pulling us out of the public schools and she quickly replied no.  When I asked her why, she said there was nothing to run from and that made me feel good.

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is a must read for many and would make a fantastic book club read because there’s a lot to discuss in it.  It will really make you think!

Review copy provided by Harper Collins.   I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
20 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2015 6:20 am

    Horrible :/
    I am glad your parents never pulled you out

  2. July 9, 2015 7:34 am

    This sounds like a fascinating read… and I love your mom’s response!

  3. July 9, 2015 7:48 am

    This would be a fantastic book group choice!

  4. July 9, 2015 7:54 am

    I’ve had my eye on this one. I grew up in Richmond and had no idea all this had gone on so close by. I heard there is some commentary on the current state of Richmond public schools, so I’m definitely interested in that as well.

  5. July 9, 2015 8:20 am

    This sounds really good! I hadn’t heard of it.

  6. Beth F permalink
    July 9, 2015 8:40 am

    Wow. This sounds really powerful and relevant. And I can see why it resonated so strongly with you, since you witnessed some of this.

  7. July 9, 2015 8:51 am

    I tried to find this at the book store and looked everywhere! I am looking forward to reading it.

  8. July 9, 2015 10:40 am

    I would love to be part of a book club discussion on a book like this. I recall the news from those times, and how, even in California, we felt the shock waves of it all. Thanks for sharing.

  9. July 9, 2015 11:28 am

    Wow, this sounds like a great book. I’m moving it to the top of my TBR list.

  10. July 9, 2015 12:03 pm

    I love your mother’s comment about not pulling you out of the school! This is a book that I’d like to read.

  11. July 9, 2015 12:18 pm

    What courage from the author to write this and expose a family secret! This sounds fascinating and sad – I will definitely look around for it next time I’m in the store. Your mother seems pretty doggone awesome as well, by the way. 🙂

  12. Patty permalink
    July 9, 2015 1:13 pm

    Your mom’s comment was truly lovely.

  13. July 9, 2015 4:32 pm

    This sounds like a must read. It’s heartbreaking and definitely a story that needs to be shared and learned from.

  14. July 9, 2015 4:41 pm

    I’ve been seeing this book pop up and I hadn’t really read much about it until your review. I admit now I’m very curious and I’ll be adding this one to my list. I love what your mom said.

  15. July 9, 2015 6:02 pm

    This sounds like an interesting book with a strong story to tell. I like how you included your own memories and your mom’s comment. Going to keep my eye out for this one.

  16. July 9, 2015 6:23 pm

    I’m glad to hear this was a good read! I’m definitely interested in it. I’ll mention it to my history teacher friend too!

  17. July 10, 2015 10:33 am

    Your mother is a wise woman. And this sounds like a fantastic read!

  18. July 15, 2015 12:00 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this book but now I really want to read it. It’s so timely. Tell your mom I said “Good for her!” It can’t have been easy to go against the pressure.

  19. bookingmama permalink
    July 15, 2015 3:12 pm

    Ooooh!!! I think I need to check out this one. Sounds very interesting. It says a lot that you couldn’t put it down.

  20. July 18, 2015 10:21 pm

    Good for your mom! I’m a sucker of public education stories, although it was the Prince Edward County that drew me in. I miss living in Virginia! I’ll have to look for this one.

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