Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County was published by journalist Kristen Green in 2015. At this time, many wondered if America had moved into a post-racial state after Barack Obama had served as president. At the same time, the nation continued to be plagued by racial unrest and violence, suggesting that the United States was not the progressive place some claimed it had become.
Green's story is motivated by her own history and family. She was raised in Farmville, a town in a rural part of Virginia, and attended a private school called Prince Edward Academy. Her parents also attended the school, as did her siblings. Her grandfather had even helped start the school. When Green attended the school, she was unaware of the complete story of its founding. She knew that it was founded in the late 1950s, when the public schools in the county had been closed. She had not realized, however, that the academy was the white community's way of avoiding integration after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. In discovering more about the history of the school, Green uncovered the uncomfortable history of her family and their role in founding and perpetuating the school. She was compelled to understand her family's history in part because she is married to a biracial man and has children who are multiracial.
Green's narrative alternates between her story and that of the black community in the county. Barbara Johns was a black student who brought suit against the county for having unequal black schools. Her case was one of those rolled into Brown v. Board of Education. Green describes Johns's case. She also uses the story of her family's maid, Elsie Lancaster, to symbolize what happened to the black community when the county's schools were closed for several years in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Elsie had to send her daughter to Massachusetts to be educated when the schools were closed, which resulted in a rift between Elsie and her daughter. Elsie was always loyal to Green's family, but Green wonders how loyal her family has been in return.
This book is an exploration of the ways in which the history of segregation and racial violence in America lingers and affects communities today. For example, Prince Edward Academy, now bearing a different name, has tried but largely failed to attract students of color, who are turned off by the school's history. The past is still very present in this county.