must be done about Prince Edward County

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New York Times Best Seller in Education and Race & Civil Rights

The New York Times
O Magazine
The Washington Post
Southern Living
The Boston Globe
Entertainment Weekly

Now in paperback

The book tells the story of a Virginia community that defied the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling. When ordered by a federal court to desegregate the public schools in 1959, white leaders instead chose to close them.

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.

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A gripping narrative.
The New York Times
Her thoughtful book is a gift to a new generation of readers.
The Washington Post
Moving and clear-eyed, damning and hopeful, this is an essential read.
Jesmyn Ward, National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones and Men We Reaped
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The story behind the book, A finalist for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction

Kristen began thinking about writing this book soon after she met her future husband, Jason. Marrying a multiracial man gave the hidden history of her hometown more meaning.

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Upcoming Events

Meet Kristen and learn more about Something Must Be Done

About Prince Edward County at any of these events

Past Events

Past Events

  • NOVEMBER 2016
  • Festival of the Written Word, Midlothian, Va.
  • OCTOBER 2016
  • Panel discussion with former students denied an education in Prince Edward, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Va.
  • SEPTEMBER 2016
  • Brescia University, Lecture, Owensboro, Ky.
  • University of Mary Washington, Lecture for class of 2020, Fredericksburg, Va.
  • AUGUST 2016
  • Warwick’s, La Jolla, Calif.
  • MAY 2016
  • Chop Suey Bookstore, with author Ross Howell Jr., Richmond, Va.
  • Gaithersburg Book Festival, Gaithersburg, Md.
  • Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, Inc. *private event
  • APRIL 2016
  • UMW RVA Alumni Network Evening, Richmond, Va. *Private event
  • Weinstein JCC, Richmond, Va.
  • Ginter Park Presbyterian Church, Richmond, Va.
  • George H. Moody Middle School, Henrico, Va. *Private event
  • Henrico Retired Teachers Luncheon *Private event
  • MARCH 2016
  • Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va.
  • Panel discussion at VisArts, Richmond, Va.
  • West End Branch Library, Richmond, Va.
  • Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, Va.
  • FEBRUARY 2016
  • Richmond Writers Program, Richmond Public Library, Richmond, Va.
  • Lecture followed by book signing, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va.
  • Ensworth High School, Nashville, Tenn. *Private event
  • Greenwich High School, Greenwich, Conn. *Private event
  • NOVEMBER 2015
  • Lecture at Hampden-Sydney College, Farmville, Va.
  • OCTOBER 2015
  • Civil rights panel, George Mason Fall for the Book festival, GMU Fairfax campus.
  • Lecture at Longwood University, Farmville, Va.
  • “Changing Course: Reflections in the Wake of Desegregation” panel with author Jim Grimsley, Southern Festival of Books, Southern Festival of Books, Nashville, Tenn.
  • James River Writers Conference, Richmond, Va.
  • Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, Va.
  • SEPTEMBER 2015
  • Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston, SC
  • Lecture at University of Mary Washington, Information and Technology Convergence Center
  • JULY 2015
  • Winchester Book Gallery, Winchester, Va.
  • Talk at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg,VA.
  • Talk and book signing at Reveille United Methodist Church, Richmond, Va.
  • Literary salon at Writer House, Charlottesville, Va.
  • JUNE 2015
  • Barnes & Noble Longwood University, Farmville, Va.
  • Curious Iguana, Frederick, Md.
  • Politics & Prose, Washington, DC
  • Barnes & Noble at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va.

About The Author


Updates from Kristen


Kristen has worked as a journalist for two decades.

This is a sample of her work.

Recent Work
Richmond Times-Dispatch
The Boston Globe

Recent Work

Richmond Times-Dispatch

The Boston Globe

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New York Times Bestseller in Education and in Race & Civil Rights | New York Times Book Review Editors’​ Choice | Southern Indie Bestseller | Recommended by: O Magazine; Essence; Southern Living; New York Post; Boston Globe | Longlisted for 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Nonfiction | Washington Post Notable Nonfiction for 2015 | Booklist Editors’ Choice: Adult Books, 2015 | “Best Author,” Richmond Magazine, Best & Worst 2016 | Finalist, Library of Virginia People’s Choice Awards | Finalist, Library of Virginia Literary Award for Nonfiction | University of Mary Washington Common Read 2016-17 | Brescia University Common Read 2016-17

Latest News

Washington Post Notable Nonfiction of 2015

Washington Post Notable Nonfiction of 2015

Nov 19 2015

I’m thrilled that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE made the Washington Post’s notable nonfiction of 2105. It is an honor to be included…

Andrew Carnegie longlist

Andrew Carnegie longlist

Sep 26 2015

I was proud to learn this week that ‪SOMETHING MUST BE DONE is on the longlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for…

Modern Notion podcast

Modern Notion podcast

Aug 04 2015

I enjoyed being interviewed by Modern Notion for this podcast. My part starts at 13:40.