Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle

Kristen Green. Harper, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-226867-9

Green’s absorbing first book follows the town of Farmville, Va., focusing on its bifurcated school system (black and white, public and private) and evolving racial culture over six decades, from the massive resistance to school integration in the 1950s and 1960s to the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors 2008 resolution that “the closing of public schools in our county from 1959 to 1964 was wrong.” Farmville was Green’s hometown; she, her siblings, her parents, and other relatives attended the all-white Prince Edward Academy. She uncovers a “painful history hidden in plain sight,” learning that her grandfather was not “some anonymous member” of the white-supremacist Defenders but one of its founders, and exploring the other life of the family’s black longtime housekeeper (“As a child I never imagined that Elsie had a life before us”). Green interviews extensively (family, old friends, administrators, teachers) and scours contemporaneous media coverage. The remarks she elicits from African-Americans who were denied public schooling by Prince Edward County are particularly affecting. A merger of history both lived and studied, Green’s book looks beyond the publicized exploits of community leaders to reveal the everyday people who took great risks and often suffered significant loss during the struggle against change in one “quaint, damaged community.” [em]Agent: Laurie Abkemeier, DeFiore and Company. (June) [/em]