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A Little Child Shall Lead Them

A Documentary Account of the Struggle for School Desegregation in Prince Edward County, Virginia
Edited by Brian J. Daugherity and Brian Grogan

BUY Cloth · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942711 · $59.50 · Jun 2019
BUY Paper · 288 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813942728 · $29.50 · Jun 2019
BUY Ebook · 288 pp. · ISBN 9780813942735 · $59.50 · Jun 2019

In the twentieth-century struggle for racial equality, there was perhaps no setting more fraught and contentious than the public schools of the American south. In Prince Edward County, Virginia, in 1951, a student strike for better school facilities became part of the NAACP legal campaign for school desegregation. That step ultimately brought this rural, agricultural county to the Supreme Court of the United States as one of five consolidated cases in the historic 1954 ruling, Brown v. Board of Education. Unique among those cases, Prince Edward County took the extreme stance of closing its public school system entirely rather than comply with the desegregation ruling of the Court. The schools were closed for five years, from 1959 to 1964, until the Supreme Court ruling in Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County ordered the restoration of public education in the county.

This historical anthology brings together court cases, government documents, personal and scholarly writings, speeches, and journalism to represent the diverse voices and viewpoints of the battle in Prince Edward County for—and against—educational equality. Providing historical context and contemporary analysis, this book offers a new perspective of a largely overlooked episode and seeks to help place the struggle for public education in Prince Edward County into its proper place in the civil rights era.


"There is no other volume that looks in detail at a particular place in the civil rights struggle as this one does, and certainly no comparable volume for Virginia, much less Prince Edward County. The authors have placed Prince Edward County in context and provided an excellent array of documents. The book will find a wide range of readers who want to hear voices of this period, as it brings these firsthand accounts into dialogue with one another and with the reader. Reading these documents, we are struck by the very human decisions taken on all sides of the conflict and the very real consequences of those decisions as well."

William G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska, author of The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War, and the Making of Modern America

About the Author: 

Brian J. Daugherity is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Commonwealth University and the author of Keep On Keeping On: The NAACP and the Implementation of Brown v. Board of Education in Virginia (Virginia).

Brian Grogan is founder and director of Mercy Seat Films and producer of the documentary They Closed Our Schools.

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