Author holds signing for debut book

Kristen Green will be signing copies of her first book, “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County,” at the Winchester Book Gallery on Saturday morning. Courtesy photo

Author and journalist Kristen Green will be returning to Winchester to sign copies of her first book at the Winchester Book Gallery on Saturday morning.

Green published “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County” through Harper on June 9, and has since received reviews and recommendations by the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Oprah Magazine and Southern Living.

Having lived in downtown Winchester for three years while working for the Winchester Star, Green wanted to include the Gallery on her list of book events to see the city and some old friends once again.

Her book describes massive resistance efforts in Prince Edward County and how both whites and blacks in that area were affected by the turbulent shifts in segregation.

Although Green grew up and went to school in Farmville, Virginia, she remained unaware of the struggles that had a resounding effect on the county – her own high school didn’t accept black students until 1986, when she was still in junior high.

After her journalism career took her from the San Diego Union-Tribune to the Boston Globe and back to the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia’s capital, Green realized it was finally time to tell the stories of people from her native Prince Edward County.

“I didn’t even know the most basic facts about what had happened in my hometown,” she said. “It was like a secret, right there in front of us.”

Green knew she wanted to tackle the subject as an important chapter in Virginia civil rights, despite being a sensitive subject to many.

“I had this feeling that people wished this story would just stay in the past; that they thought that this story had already been told and didn’t want to revitalize it,” she said.

She conducted her first interview for the book in 2006 with one of the founding members of the private Prince Edward Academy. Her first interview with individuals in Prince Edward who suffered under segregation and massive resistance was with Charlie Taylor, who linked her with many other sources.

Taylor was just about to start his senior year at Prince Edward’s Moton High School but was forced to finish his education in Kittrell, North Carolina, after the public schools were shuttered. He has spoken at three of Green’s signings and has passed a number of copies off to friends in Prince Edward.

“It’s enough for them for people to want to know what truly happened,” he said. “The book leaves you without a doubt.”

For Green, an intense stage in the process of writing her book was coming to terms with her grandfather’s role in establishing and maintaining Prince Edward private schools. Although she had known he was involved in the administration of what is now Fuqua School, she found out through further investigation that he was a member of the Farmville chapter of Defenders of State Liberties and Individual Sovereignty, which championed massive resistance plans conceived by Harry Byrd Sr.

The private academy was essentially an opportunity for white families to educate their children when the county public schools closed in 1959 from funding cuts – a backlash effort against the Brown v. Board decision requiring all public schools to desegregate.

Part of that landmark case was one of a student protest out of segregated Moton High School in Prince Edward led by Barbara Johns in 1951.

Green said she hopes a wide readership of this book will continue the conversation she said America needs to have about its history. She said it would serve well as a textbook or campus read.

“I think it would be interesting for people in Virginia to learn the role that this community played in civil rights and education,” she said.

Green is in the beginning stages of writing a second book. She lives in Richmond with her husband and two daughters, and said she wants to be sure to send them to ethnically diverse schools.

Learn more about Green and “Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County” at: http://kristengreen.net.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com