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Beyond the Book

296 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones, 2 maps, notes, bibl., index

ISBN  978-1-4696-1907-1
Published: August 2014

Brown's Battleground

Students, Segregationists, and the Struggle for Justice in Prince Edward County, Virginia

By Jill Ogline Titus

Awards & Distinctions

Finalist, 2012 Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, Prince Edward County, Virginia, home to one of the five cases combined by the Court under Brown, abolished its public school system rather than integrate.

Jill Titus situates the crisis in Prince Edward County within the seismic changes brought by Brown and Virginia's decision to resist desegregation. While school districts across the South temporarily closed a building here or there to block a specific desegregation order, only in Prince Edward did local authorities abandon public education entirely--and with every intention of permanence. When the public schools finally reopened after five years of struggle--under direct order of the Supreme Court--county authorities employed every weapon in their arsenal to ensure that the newly reopened system remained segregated, impoverished, and academically substandard. Intertwining educational and children's history with the history of the black freedom struggle, Titus draws on little-known archival sources and new interviews to reveal the ways that ordinary people, black and white, battled, and continue to battle, over the role of public education in the United States.

About the Author

Jill Ogline Titus is associate director of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.


“A welcome addition to the growing body of scholarship on school desegregation and the civil rights era in Virginia.”
--Virginia Magazine

"Titus effectively provides a comprehensive history of the darkest hour of massive resistance in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision."
--Journal of Southern History

Brown’s Battleground examines the victors and the victims and describes the power of black high school students’ activism in confronting injustices in a so-called democratic society. It makes an invaluable contribution to scholarship on U.S. legal, educational, and African American history.”
--Journal of African American History

“A must-read for historians and for all educators wishing to engage contextually based historical studies rigorously. It is an excellent text for undergraduate and graduate seminars on race and education in the United States.”
--Oral History Review

"An extraordinary accomplishment, this book is the definitive account of Prince Edward County's abandonment of public education and its consequences for the county's children."
--James R. Sweeney, Old Dominion University

"Brown’s Battleground should be required reading for all those professional educators, school board members, and politicians who believe that public schools have outlived their usefulness. Jill Ogline Titus’s gripping, masterful account of Prince Edward County’s closing its schools rather than integrating them is as timely as it is sobering. Quietly but eloquently, she makes the case that what went down in Virginia a half century ago speaks directly to our condition today."
--John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle of Civil Rights in Mississippi

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