We Are Your Children Too: Black Students, White Supremacists, and the Battle for America’s Schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia

By P. O’Connell Pearson. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2023. 288 pages. $17.99/hardcover; $8.99/paperback (available in January); $10.99/eBook. Recommended for ages 10–14.

This book tells the gripping story of a student strike in 1951 at the segregated and grossly inadequate R. R. Moton High School. The strike pulled the entire Black community into the struggle for equal, integrated public schools: a struggle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court twice, first as one of three cases joined with Brown v. Board of Education. This history book reads like the script of a documentary film that could have been produced by Henry Louis Gates and narrated by an enthusiastic docent guiding viewers through the history museum now housed in the historic R. R. Moton High School building. As we read through the book, which includes black-and-white photographs from the time and powerful words of participants in the struggle—from those of the Black teens, their families, and allies to those of the White segregationists—feelings of anger and rage arose in us in response to many facets of the story.

The Prince Edward County School Board closed all of their public schools from 1959 until 1964 while funding a White-only private school through vouchers. Families and teachers (both Black and White and including some Quakers) and social justice organizations like American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) found ways for about 1,000 Black students to continue their education, but at least as many could not. The author compares the impact of that disruption with our experience of the recent COVID pandemic school closings, and she follows up on the lives of the affected students, teachers, and community leaders.

The interviews woven into the text reveal how both students and the adult community persisted through multiple setbacks in carrying on the demands for free, equal, integrated education that the high school strike had started. The work of these newly minted community activists and organizers is shown against timelines of the slow progression of civil rights nationally, including their second Supreme Court victory, Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County in 1964, and culminating in 1969 with a second student strike in support of a fired teacher, better funding and facilities, and Black representation on the school board.

We enjoyed reading this book. Adults and teens will find it a quick but impressive tour of the Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s with your own enthusiastic docent leading you through the significant events and peculiar turns of history in the making.

Tom and Sandy Farley are members of Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting, credentialed teachers, storytellers, volunteer booksellers with Earthlight, and coauthors of the Earthcare for Children curriculum.

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