Bacon on the Bookshelf

Savory picks for the free range reader

Something Must Be Done

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Kristen Green set out to understand what happened in the place she grew up – Prince Edward County, Virginia – between 1959 and 1964, when the county closed every single one of its public schools instead of integrating under court order. ‘Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County’: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle is a mash-up of history and memoir chronicling what Kristen learned about her hometown community, including – painfully and personally – those closest to her. 

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On Monday, February 20th, the Robert Penn Warren Center (featured in yesterday’s post) and the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center co-sponsor Kristen’s Nashville presentation on Something Must Be Done

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The public schools would remain shut for five years, depriving hundreds of black children – and some white children – of an education. Students were sent to live with family, even strangers, in other counties, and even other states so they could attend school. Some children worked in the tobacco fields with their parents to help support their families. Many would never again return to a classroom.

It was a story Kristen knew little about as a child. She spent an idyllic childhood in Farmville, swimming with her three brothers in her parents’ pool and being doted on by loving grandparents. All her neighbors, teachers, and classmates were white. She had virtually no contact with blacks in her community, other than her family’s longtime housekeeper, Elsie Lancaster. She was completely unaware of the impact the school closures had had on black children, including Elsie’s daughter.

When Kristen decided to write about what had happened in her hometown, she used her journalistic skills to peel back the layers of the community’s complicated and shameful history. The result is the story of how Barbara Johns, a young, female student led a protest of the conditions at her black high school, resulting in a lawsuit that would ultimately become part of Brown v. Board of Education.

It is the story of a landmark Supreme Court case, and a white Board of Supervisors that voted to close schools rather than allow their children to attend class with black kids. And it is a story of how the affected children, their parents, and the entire community, would forever be changed. (See website for more.)

The New York Times and Washington Post both praised Something Must Be Done in favorable reviews, though other reviewers have been a touch less generous not about the story it tells but the manner in which it is told. “Something doesn’t always flow easily,” writes Entertainment Weekly.  The Guardian concurs (“In prose that is not always as lively as the story she tells, Green chronicles her own family’s complicity in their local battles.”) That being said, Something Must Be Done was a New York Times bestseller in race and civil rights and in education, and it was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction.

Kristen Green is an award-winning journalist, and her presentation in Nashville this Monday, February 20th, promises to be compelling.  Details below…

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

Monday, February 20, 2017, 4:10 PM

Location: Vanderbilt University, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center • Nashville, TN

See website for details
Free and Open to the Public
A reception will follow the program

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