Writing with Your Family at the Kitchen Table: Balancing Home and Academic Communities
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Prince Edward County, Virginia was home to my mother’s family. Her mother was born and raised there and my own mother spent the first five years of her life there, staying with her grandmother while her mother and father worked to set up a home in neighboring Richmond. Prince Edward was the site of family gatherings and the setting for most of the stories my grandmother shared with me. While it certainly represented a great deal of good, there was also pain and hurt behind many of the stories in this space. In 1959, Prince Edward County’s Board of Supervisors voted to close all public schools rather than face integration. The movement to impede Brown vs. Board of Education was part of a larger strategy throughout the South to resist the Brown ruling at all costs. Massive Resistance, the term coined to reflect this stance, was rampant across the South, but got its start in Virginia.1 Communities took various approaches to circumvent the Brown ruling, but none reacted quite as forcefully as Prince Edward. Public schools would remain closed for five years. While the white community created a private segregation academy to serve its children, the Black community struggled to craft intervention plans that were sustainable. I wrote my dissertation about the temporary one-year school system, the Prince Edward County Free Schools Association, that was established from efforts on the part of Prince Edward’s Black community, its allies, and President John F. Kennedy’s administration. The Free Schools were part of a litany of programs designed for and by the Black community. Using archival records and interviews with former Free School students, I argued for the Free Schools to be seen as an institutional response to the rhetorics of Massive Resistance.