Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County

by Kristen Green

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Family Secrets

In Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County, author Kristen Green investigates the secrets in her family history and in the history of her community of Farmville, Virginia. She grew up in the small town of Farmville, surrounded by her parents, grandparents, and siblings, and attended a school called Prince Edward Academy. She was not aware of the history of the school, and she believed what the adults around her told her—that the school had been opened in response to public schools' closure. By digging into the story more deeply, she finds out that the whites in the town, including her grandparents, established the Prince Edward Academy to avoid integration of the schools following the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case. Green must do her own research to piece the story together. In the process, she finds out hard truths about her grandparents, whom she always adored. She must reconcile the love she feels for them with her dislike of the actions they took in the 1950s and 1960s.

Uncovering Black History

Green develops the story about what happened to the black students who could not attend school in Prince Edward County when the public schools were closed. While whites opened their own academy, black students often had nowhere to go to school. As a result, they were not educated for years, and the literacy rate among black people in the area dropped precipitously. Green's family's maid, Elsie, had to send her own daughter to school in Massachusetts. Until she was grown, Green did not think about the effects of the schools' closure on black families, and the county as a whole did not address this element of their past.

The Personal as Political

Green elucidates the ways in which her family's history and the history of the white and black families around her were shaped by larger events. Barbara Johns, a local black student, decided to file suit in a state court to rectify the inequality between white and black schools, and her suit became one of the cases that was consolidated into the Brown v. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court case that desegregated schools. Green's family and the families around them were all affected by this decision, as the whites in the county helped white students attend private schools. Many black citizens could not receive an education at all during this time. What happened to white and black families was not just personal; instead, these families were affected by the politics of the nation, and their choices affected others in the county.

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