When the Schools Shut Down


Author: Yolanda Gladden & Dr. Tamara Pizzoli


Illustrator: Keisha Morris


Most people think that the Brown vs. Board of Education decision of 1954 meant that schools were integrated with deliberate speed. But the children of Prince Edward County located in Farmville, Virginia, who were prohibited from attending formal schools for five years, knew differently.

Public schools were shut down in 1959 (the year a young Yolanda was ready to attend) in retaliation to the new law being passed. Some kids didn’t go to school at all. Others walked miles to the next town. But there was a small number of Black people who created their own school systems at home and in church basements. As many community members continued to fight against white supremacy in the wake of a revolution, Yolanda

stood with her head high,
shoulders back,
spine straight.

Told by Yolanda Gladden herself and cowritten by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, When the Schools Shut Down is a true account of the unconstitutional effort by white lawmakers of this small Virginia town to circumvent racial justice by denying an entire generation of children an education.