Literacy, Archives, and a Constellation of Stories

Dr. Epps-Robertson’s first book, Resisting Brown: Race, Literacy, and Citizenship in the Heart of Virginia, examines the literacy program of the Prince Edward County Free School Association (Free School). 

After the Brown vs. Board of Education rulings (1954, 1955), many localities in America resisted integration. Prince Edward County, Virginia, was one of the most extreme. Rather than fund integrated schools, the county’s board of supervisors closed public schools from 1959-1964. The Free School stood as one response to the closures. Drawing upon extensive archival research and interviews with former students, Epps-Robertson analyzes public discourse that supported the school closures as an effort and manifestation of citizenship and demonstrated how the establishment of the Free School can be seen as a rhetorical response to racist ideologies. The school’s mission statements, philosophies, and commitment to literacy argued against racialized constructions of citizenship. Prince Edward County is a microcosm of America’s race, literacy, and citizenship struggle. 

More than an academic contribution to histories of rhetoric, race, and literacy, this book was also an effort for her to honor stories from home. Growing up with stories from her family from Prince Edward County, her first book was an effort to preserve stories from home, the archives, and former Free School students. 

This book won the 2019 Book of the Year award from the Conference on Community Writing. 

Please explore the links below for writing and research related to this era.

“Writing with your family at the kitchen table: Balancing Home and Academic Communities.” Praxis: A Writing Center Journal, Vol 14, No 1, (2016).

“The Race to Erase Brown vs. Board of Education: The Virginia Way and the Rhetoric of Massive Resistance.” Rhetoric Review 35: 2 (2016): 108-120. Print. *Winner of the 2016 Therese J. Enos Award for Best Article in Rhetoric Review

“Teaching Must Be Our Demonstration!:” Literacy, Citizenship, and Activism in the Prince Edward County Free School Association, 1963-1964″ Literacy in Composition Studies (Spring 2015)

“Massive Resistance and Harry F. Byrd” ~ A guest blog post for The Blog of The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library (University of Virginia)

Featured interview essay with Dr. Edward Peeples, noted Virginia civil rights fighter and academic~ Spring 2014 issue of Reflections. This podcast highlights our conversation.

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