I had a day to spend in Farmville, VA recently and a friend suggested I visit the Robert Russa Moton Museum. The Moton Museum sits in the school building where, in 1951, the student body of black teenagers, led by Barbara Johns, went on strike demanding that the deplorable conditions at their segregated school be improved. Their efforts led to the case Davis v. Prince Edward County which was one of the five cases consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education where the US Supreme Court ruled that separate could never be equal and that school segregation is unconstitutional. I was humbled by the story of Barbara Johns and her peers—how kids, the same age as my son is now, stood up for themselves and demanded they be treated with dignity. I knew so little of their story and I wanted to learn more.

After the trip I picked up Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green from the library. The author tells a history of segregation in her hometown of Farmville and surrounding Prince Edward County. In the aftermath of the order to desegregate schools, white people in power closed the county’s public schools completely rather than be forced to have their kids attend the same schools as black people. A whites-only private school was started with public funds, a school that the author’s grandfather helped to found, her parents attended, and where she herself graduated high school. The author explores and attempts to reckon with the complexities of her family’s role in this racism.

I recommend this book as a good starting point on the history and that anyone passing near Farmville, VA visit the Moton Museum.

Sam Davies @mrbeefy