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Book Club Kits: Something Must be Done About Prince Edward County

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Kristen Green

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Book Summary

Combining hard-hitting investigative journalism and a sweeping family narrative, this provocative true story reveals a little-known chapter of American history: the period after the Brown v. Board of Education decision when one Virginia school system refused to integrate.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s unanimous Brown v. Board of Education decision, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to obey the law. Rather than desegregate, the county closed its public schools, locking and chaining the doors. The community’s white leaders quickly established a private academy, commandeering supplies from the shuttered public schools to use in their all-white classrooms. Meanwhile, black parents had few options: keep their kids at home, move across county lines, or send them to live with relatives in other states. For five years, the schools remained closed.

Kristen Green, a longtime newspaper reporter, grew up in Farmville and attended Prince Edward Academy, which did not admit black students until 1986. In her journey to uncover what happened in her hometown before she was born, Green tells the stories of families divided by the school closures and of 1,700 black children denied an education. As she peels back the layers of this haunting period in our nation’s past, her own family’s role—no less complex and painful—comes to light.

At once gripping, enlightening, and deeply moving, Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County is a dramatic chronicle that explores our troubled racial past and its reverberations today, and a timeless story about compassion, forgiveness, and the meaning of home.

Discussion Questions

  • What role did Elsie play in the author’s life? Do you think that she ever felt that she was an equal member of the community, even after desegregation? There are many moments in the book when Elsie is silent. How do you interpret that silence?


  • Why do you think the county’s white leaders criticized blacks for demanding integrated schools? What was at stake if the schools integrated? Why did so few whites speak out against the school closures?


  • How did you feel when residents of the town repeatedly expressed the sentiment that enough had already been said about Prince Edward’s history?


  • Which of the black students’ stories did you find most moving? What do you think are some of the lasting impacts of the school closures on them, their families, and the community?


  • In relation to the school closures, do you think appropriate acts of reconciliation have taken place in Prince Edward County and across the state of Virginia? What more could be done, if anything?


  • The author is revealing some difficult things about her family's past. Do you think she is justified in bringing forth this information?


  • The author tells her story about growing up in a sheltered environment in Prince Edward County. What were the things that she learned about herself after she went away for college, and how did her experience working as a journalist help shape her new worldview? What do you think are the benefits of living outside of your comfort zone?


  • The author is thankful to be able to raise her multiracial children in a diverse community. Why is it important for her that her children know about what happened in her hometown?


  • How did you feel about the author’s expression of shame and guilt for the role her town and family played in closing the schools? Why do you think she decided those feelings were important to wrestle with, especially in such a public way? Do you think any good can come from addressing them?