By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - On Saturday, 68 seniors will graduate from Wilcox County High School in South Georgia, leaving behind a legacy that could last long after they’ve said their goodbyes: Next year, for the first time, their high school will host a prom.
It’s a new tradition in their small rural community, one they hope will eliminate their county’s custom of private, racially segregated proms.
A small group from 2013’s senior class sparked the idea of an integrated prom this year, bucking 40 years of high school tradition.
When their county’s racially segregated schools combined in the early 1970s, the school called off its homecoming dance and prom; it was a volatile time at the newly integrated school, alumni said, and parents and school leaders were wary of black and white students attending the same dance. Like in many other Southern communities, Wilcox County students and parents stepped in to plan private, off-site parties, complete with formal gowns, tuxedos, DJs and décor.
But long after outward racial tension died down, the private, segregated parties in Wilcox County remained - a quiet reminder of racism, students said.
This year, a few white and black seniors organized a prom open to all Wilcox County High School students, whether white, black, Latino or Asian.
"If we're all together and we love each other the way we say we do, then there are no issues," integrated prom organizer and Wilcox County senior Mareshia Rucker said during the dance in April. "This is something that should have happened a long time ago."
Their campaign drew international media attention and an outpouring of online support and donations of money, prom dresses and DJ services. It also drew some criticism from students and parents who liked the old tradition, and community members who worried about the negative light cast on their small town.
Scenes from Wilcox County students' first integrated prom
Regardless of the ups and downs, students said, they would have preferred an official school prom instead of a private, integrated event off-campus.
Next year, it’s happening.
Superintendent Steve Smith said Friday that the high school’s leadership team polled rising juniors and seniors, and found that most favored an official school prom. Many who voted against it said they were fine with a racially integrated dance, Smith said, but they didn’t like that school rules would apply, unlike at private parties.
A diverse group of students will lead the prom planning next school year, Smith said, and they’ll remain responsible for deciding a theme, decorations and entertainment.
They’ll also be responsible for raising money, just as they did for the private proms; the school will not pay for the dance.
“That’ll be a great experience for our students to work together toward a common goal,” he said.
Smith expects the first prom to be held in the high school gym. It’s not air-conditioned, he said, but it’s large enough to fit all the students and easier to enforce school rules there. It makes a statement, he said: Wilcox County High School’s prom is for everyone.
“It helps build school pride a bit,” he said.
A high school prom held 50 years later
The reaction has been positive, Smith said. He applauds students who organized an integrated prom this year and the faculty who signed on to a start a new prom tradition in 2014.
“I think everybody knew what the right answer was. People just like to hold on to traditions sometimes,” he said.
There are no plans to hold a school-sponsored homecoming dance in the fall, Smith said, although he’s open to discussing it.
Hosting a school prom won’t necessarily make racially segregated private proms go away, Smith said; in several other communities that began hosting school proms in recent years, parents and students still planned private, segregated events outside of school.
But Smith said he wants the old tradition to fade – and for Wilcox County educators and students get back to the business of teaching, learning and graduating.
“I think you’ll find these other parties die a slow death,” he said. “I hope that happens.”
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thats just wrong of having a different rase pary yall need too fix that.
I think having a prom wii get everybody together so that people
I cannot believe that people are still debating over integration in this day and age. Very sad!
Someone should set up a fundraiser for them to chip in for portable air conditioners for their gym. Get a couple of those set up and have AC for the dance!
In a word, GROSS, whites should be with whites and blacks should be with blacks and that is the way it should always be.
Well hello Archie Bunker.
So sad that people like you still exist in the world. :(
Sad fact that millions of Southern whites have had to pay for private schools to avoid the violent, fatherless Obama voter children in the public schools since the 1970s.
Sad fact that you are a godless racist, and needs help. You obviously live in the north where most racists live, and these kids, including the white ones attend PUBLIC school. Wilcox County is a poor area, and I can guarantee you, if the blacks are impoverished, so are the white kids.
Wow…a Jim Crow throw-back! I didn’t know they still made cretins like you. Must be mentally exhausting to spend every waking day generating so much hate. Ironically, the world still needs idiots like you because without you, we wouldn’t know who the enemy is. Thank you for exposing yourself and your true feelings. You now have permission to crawl back under the rock from which you came.
To Smarg (aka Smeagol):
Wow…a Jim Crow throw-back! I didn’t know they still made cretins like you. Must be mentally exhausting to spend every waking day generating so much hate. Ironically, the world still needs idiots like you because with you, we wouldn’t know who the enemy is. Thank you for exposing yourself and your true feelings. You now have permission to crawl back under the rock from which you came.
Its about time that parts of this country stops living in the 1950s!
The proms should never have been segregated in the first place. Separate proms for blacks and whites is and always was a disgusting idea. Your classmates are still your classmates no matter what color their skin is.
Typical job-destroying leftists have cut catering jobs in half by having one prom instead of two. Progressives know nothing about job creation. More segregation = more jobs!
It's great that this community finally pulled it's head out of it's @$$, but how many more little southern towns are still stuck in the dark ages that people don't know about
Racism? In America ? No way....
After reading all these comments I have no idea how to make one that makes sense but I shall try. These kids show
that we are all the same and God willing the next generation comes further than we have. As long as we see color and as long as we talk about color whether affirmative action or other, we will be racist. When I am in the sun (I am half Apache), I turn reddish brown, that is a color. It is not a race or a creed. You can not tell who I am or what I believe by my color or lack thereof. Narrowmindedness breeds Narrowmindedness. Let us free ourselves and become the greatest diversified land and culture in the world. When historians look back on our generation, let us be the ones who embraced our American Culture of Liberty and Freedom in all things governed by the Rule of Law and the Love of our Hearts.
Sad they had to do this on their own but good on them. Even in 2013 hate is still alive and well.
Thats absolutely crazy that they would even have to vote on something like this.That really bends the mind that at this time and date its even possible to vote on this.Whats next do they vote on Southern states flag be removed froim the schools flag pool. I cant believe that anyone could feel good about this rule being present.
Comments please .....
I would never drive through these small southern towns and I am a caucasian.
That's something "runymede" I am Caucasian and feel the same way. I was brought up in the north, and I am not saying no one was prejudice but you did not have the segregated schools, dances or anything like that. We all played together went to school functions together etc. This was even back in the fifties as far as I could see in my neck of the woods. When I was around ten and started getting into the news and history I was shocked and hurt when I learned of these things going on in the south.
If I travel south or anywhere especially small towns and see just white people in the area than I get a creepy feeling and want to keep going it's, chilling.
I grew up in the north, too, and our high school, despite its race problems, was integrated. It was only when I went to an Ivy League College that I knew what racial separation was - blacks eating at one part of the dining hall, whites at the other. I am curious whether that's still the case today–my guess it is. It's funny how liberal administrators at those colleges approved of such blatant racial separation.
Now that they are done with Scouts, for now, the G.ay Agenda will now insist that this prom is still "bigoted" "hatefull" and "hom.ophobic" because they won't have a tranny boy/boy dance at this prom.
I wonder if people like you know that your kind is what is destroying this country. If someone who is gay wishes to go o prom with a male or female partner then that is their choosing, not yours. If you do not like the fact that the United States is defending its civil rights for all individuals then I suggest you leave. I hear Nigeria likes your extreme ideals. Several other countries even put into law that someone should be put to death if they are gay. Why don't you move to one of those African countries if you don't like the fact that we are actually upholding the civil rights for all?
What impact have you made on earth to make things better? It must be hard to be you and be filled with so much disgust. These people should be applauded and supported. Gay rights have nothing to do with this story but I guess you couldn't resist being who you are.....hateful.
United we stand my friends...divided we fall.
I agree, if we all can be harmonious!
This still happens?
I thought the same thing. unbelievable!
I couldn't believe it was still happening when I moved to south georgia in 1985! (ironically, we'd just moved from northwest arkansas where 1st day of deer hunting season was a school holiday [seriously] but even THEY had one prom!)
I REALLY couldn't believe it survived the militant political correctness of the 1990s...
but STILL going on anywhere in 2013? surviving into the 2nd o administration?!? where are all the usual suspect race warlords? guess there's not enough $ and/or tv face time in rural proms...
you'd think someone would start a website to list the remaining ones & shame them into submission...
The shocking aspect to this story for me is discovering that there are still places in the US where proms are racially segregated. Do they also hold Jewish proms? Catholic proms? Latino proms? Gay proms? Band geek proms? I grew up in a poor, rural area in the South and there hasn't been a segregated proms in my home county in over 40 years.
Shhhh! John Roberts doesn't want to hear this.
This surprised a lot of our readers, but in my reporting, we found it shocked even some people who live near Wilcox County. It was somewhat common in parts of Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina etc. during the years schools were integrated, but in many areas, the segregated dances didn't last long. Over the last few years, several films and articles have explored some of the last known places where it happens, usually prompting some kind of change. At this point, certainly, there aren't many places remaining where private, segregated proms are the norm.
If you head to Cartersville, Georgia there is a restaurant there called the Four Way. There are two entrances, one for the blacks, one for the whites. The doors aren't labeled anymore since the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but people of both races know not to go in the other door. Its a complete tragedy that places like this were allowed to continue their racist practices without too much public outcry from the local community.
I've lived in South Carolina my entire life and I've never seen a segregated prom. It wasn't even a thought that crossed my mind. So I don't understand how someone from the North thinks they know so much about a state they say they won't ever visit. Until you've come here, I wouldn't make comments like that. That being said, I'm not saying racism doesn't exist here, I'm sure you can find some sorts of it anywhere you visit. However, I've never seen/heard of integrated events in all my 28 years in South Carolina. So it does kind of shock me to hear about it still happening. Good that those kids took the steps to get rid of the segregation.
Sorry, I realized I may have replied to the wrong comment. I still stand by it, but I'm not trying to attack your reporting. I was meaning to comment against someone else's comment about never being in the South but has all these fears about it.
Way to go, South! You're only 50 or so years behind the rest of the country.
While I understand why people are applauding the students for doing this, someone should really be shaking their heads at the myopia and racism that prevented it from happening until 2013.
I live in the South and racism is still very much alive. It is alarming. With the politics today, I often wonder how this country can call itself "United" States and/or Christian. I read and hear nothing but fighting words and hate. No one wants to get along nor live in peace.
This is a travesty to both the black and white race. Our races are on the decline and with the intermixing of the races it won't be long till both are long forgotten. So many were duped into thinking the US has it's first "Black" president, when in fact, the US has it's first Mulatto President.
Do you know that all of humanity originally came from Africa? We all have the same ancestors. So, where is the travesty if they dance together?
Who cares?! That sounds fine, we're all mutts anyway
are we not all part of the human race? why must something as trivial as a high school prom be so divisive?
"I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway. because either she's homeless or she's got problems"
would you mind explaining yourself please?
@captainfantastic Cadan is quoting Charles Ramsey, the black man who rescued the three girls in Cleveland (Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight) that had been imprisoned in a house. Ramsey said he knew something was wrong when Amanda Berry (a white girl) ran into his arms (a black man). It would be hard not to know this unless you've been asleep for a month or so, since it was heavily covered in the news for weeks. I believe that Cadan is using this statement of Ramsey's to illustrate the fact that many people still see a racial divide.
it's 2013 for pete's sake... why is this still an issue? I just can't fathom it...
Congratulations, Wilcox County High School, welcome to the Human race! (Not a big deal, most of you were there already).
BTW, Violet Weed, learn to control that anger. Your racism is a symptom, not the root cause of your problem(s).
The whole concept of prom is nothing but commercial.
Violet reed you are right. I worked in corporate downtown New York and the two years I worked as a temp. I was able to work in many large companies for CEOs I could count on one hand the Blacks who held these positions. Most of the time, I was the ONLY Black there as an administrator asst. But when I applied for a permanent position, there was always some "reason". the reall kicker was. when they hired someone for my temp position they asked me to train the person. Nobody trained me when I came and I always did a great job as I was always told. The so called equal opportunity at companes is a big lie. Large companies do segregate even to this day. Yet you have repubs calling Blacks lazy and turn right around and don't hire Blacks unless like you say, they are Africans from a rich class. I can't say their education is better than some of the Blacks here since I know quite a lot of well educated Blacks that are not given a chance. Racism is a big deal here. It is always the Blacks who are more welcoming than whites. We have people of all colors living in our communities. I would be willing to bet most of those people couldn't get a house in a white neighborhood.
See, See? By electing Obama two times in a row it is now perpetual springtime in America ! Praise be for Lord Obama the Magic N....word.
and here again we have proof positive that racism is far from over – SHAME
Really Luek?? You came up with that all by yourself? Your parents must be so proud!
I was just praising the Lord Obama The Magic N…word and the Era of Perpetual Springtime his election has brought to America and everyone starts to rag me out about it? What up with that?
Wow. May your children and childrens children finally get it....
I don't understand how America can be a world leader when its own country is racist in so many areas and they can't even protect their own citizens from gangs – ie Watts, for one place. Those in Benghazi should be safe? but citizens can't even walk down the street safely in many areas. Too many live in fear, on the streets, are in jail, dealing drugs, without medical care or adequate education. America could learn from other countries, but too many (Rebublicans, for one group) won't change, so things don't improve. Racism . . . how can there even still be anything segregaged nowadays – beyond belief..
You disgusting, pathetic cretin. America is one of the least racist countries in the world. If you don't understand that, you haven't traveled anywhere, or done a split second of honest research.
You are a pathetic pile of ignorance.
speaking of clueless – "American exceptionalism" my donkey.
Are you kidding? Have you read comments on these blogs? Have you seen and been aware of what this president has been through? as a black who came up in the 60s I was sent to an all white school along with five other black kids and we were beaten, spit on and called all kinds of name we never heard of. I'll never forget the boy who was with us went on to fight in Viet Nam and was killed, So much for his country. THere is still blatant racism. Just look at condi being allowed to the all white golf club at this date and time. I can go on. but I would be too exhausted.
Well that escalated quickly..
I don't care if the majority of the black students wanted to keep the proms segregated. Some of the black students began to realize the success of young black students in the local working environment hinges on everybody coming together as a community and interacting with each other. The psychological and social prejudice tends to start early, and can be tempered early.
Hmmmm – no. I can't even imagine in Canada there being a discussion on segregated dances. It wouldn't happen. So . . . if a white person and a black person are going out they can't attend either dance – absolutely mind boggling. How can America say it is the greatest country on earth with that kind of thinking. Race doesn't have anything to do with anything. People are human beings and that is that. What is really laughable is that many who are racist call themselves Christians. I just don't get it – the whole segregation still thing
That's odd...as someone with relations on both sides of the border, I am quite certain that Canada has been quite brutal of its first nations (Native American) populations...even to this day....and yes...in parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta there is segregation. Sorry...black and white doesn't work in this world anymore...we are all getting too smart for that.
It was the greatest country on the earth now the greatest is Canada
Canada cannot call itself the greatest nation on Earth when it is raping its stunning landscape with its extraction of the "tar sands" sludge ... not to mention its violent meddling overseas in places like Libya and Afghanistan.
I lived in Canada for a few years. I remember one of my neighbors going on about how Canadians weren't racist and that they didn't have any problems with people of different races. A few weeks later she was telling me about how all of the indigenous peoples were lazy and living off the government. She also had an issue with the Canadian government allowing in so many muslim immigrants. Of course according to her Canada has no problems with race relations.
I also am originally from the southern US. I have a friend who is an ethnically indian muslim. He stated in a facebook post that the discrimination against him in the Netherlands made him long to be not only back in the US but back in the southern US.
People seem to like to point at others and say we are so much better than you. We don't have a problem with this and that. It allows them to ignore the problems that do exist in their own countries.
Has anyone seen the Sweden has been burnt down the ground for 5 days in a row and no Western News Papers are talking about it.
CNN has nothing, not even a hit of this, burning churches and peoples homes to the ground.
What the hell does this have to do with this story?
Can't you armchair critics control yourselves?
What a rude bunch.
For the record, here is CNN.com's latest piece on the riots in Sweden: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/24/world/europe/sweden-riots-fifth-night/index.html
If you're going to talk about CNN as if they aren't reporting the news, at least take the time to read the articles they DO post....
This is my suggestion. Someone note who of the students attend the segregated private proms. In later years, just send those individuals a note telling them that since the annual reunions are integrated that the organizers fully understand that those individuals should not attend the reunions. Frankly, if those people do not care to mingle with the rest of their classmates at such an important event, that is fine just make it permanent.
Quick dancing by the Superintendent...he saw which was the wind was blowing and decided he batter get on board......pretty lousy example of leadership......time for him to move on....
Hew did a good job as long as you are not a racist.
And what is the big deal here? If people want to integrate, fine, but for those who don't want to integrate, fine also! People have a right to choose to go either way and should not be judged so harshly whichever way they choose.
The school's official prom did not allow blacks to attend with whites.
Like it is 1898 or something.
Do you understand now?
Peter unless you have different information than what I'm remembering from the original story, there was no official prom. The school has never sponsored a prom until this one. The segregated proms were put on privately.
people should be judged harshly for being ignorant, unthinking bigots.
My problem has always only been the 'mixing' of the two.. I grew up in a time in the south that folks knew their part. I knew which door to walk in. I didn't look at it as a down thing but the idea that we stay separate and yet function as equals. Had we stuck to that instead of pretending that us 'of color' had broken some kind of barrier, we would have been so much better off
Big Yawn. Why? Just another private party among private parties. The sea change is that no one cared i they had an integrated private party. That sea change occurred 40 years ago.
im falling asleep. gotta go.
Are we supposed to applaud this... 50 years late? The south loves procrastination, especially with equality. And book learnin.
I applaud the students
Me too, but the fact that some parents are freaking and even some students are against this makes me wonder how these people survive in the modern world.
I applaud no one. Classic case of WHO CARES!
They don't taken kindly your not takin' kindly round these parts.
I am a native born Virginian and my most recent ancestry German but my real ancestral home is East Africa – where all of us promed together not so long ago.
This is the time the daughters of the south get to pi ss off their fathers. LOL.
This is old news already and people are only legends or legacies in their own minds...much ado about nothing...
Damn the South is behind. Great leadership from the kids.
I am so impressed with this young people – it gives me hope that someday we will finally get over all this black/white/red/yellow/whatever bs that keeps us from enjoying our human diversity. Way to go!
But what you do not know, AND I DO. I spent the better part of the last 14 years working projects all over the South, and it is the BLACK people who wanted the segregated proms (and segregated beaches, etc. etc.) NOT THE WHITE PEOPLE.
whether you are correct or not, it is not the role of the students but the role of the administration to do the right thing...and they have failed...miserably.
I don't think so Violet!
Yeah, because 14 years of them wanting to do their own thing outweighs the hundreds of years of white people forcing them to.
As the song by Katie Melua says, Violet Weed..."If a Black man is racist/ Is it okay?/ If it was a white man's racism/ That made him that way?"...in the context of the desire for separate/distinct proms in the Deep South, is it really surprising that the AA community was cautious and isolationist in the face of well-known racial divisions and violence?
I admit I have very mixed feelings about this story. More than anything else I applaud these students who made the decision to turn their backs upon decades of segregation and openly declare that all people are equal and equally worthy of socializing together. That can't have been easy, nor do I think they did it as a publicity stunt.
On the other hand, I'm saddened that it's taken so long. I don't live in the south, nor have I experienced what that society was like "back when" but I do know, having been around the south from time to time, that in some places things haven't really changed much and examples of MLK and so many others are still regarded with disdain and regret. Maybe this is another step, big or small depending upon your own point of view, but a step nonetheless. I just wish the journey for equality wasn't such a long road.
O really? I've got news for you then! The racism in this country, what still exists against black people, is really against only african-AMERICANS not all black people. Furthermore it is occurring faaaar more in the Northern states than in the South. I'm from Hawai'i and have lived all over this country (and the world) for the past 35 years. I work in technology, and I can state factually that in I.T. you find more african-american people working at companies in the Southern states not in the Northern states. O it is BLATANTly obvious. GEICO, based in Macon, GA, has about 30% african-american techies, when the general population of african-american is around 11-12%. VISA based in California had TWO techies when I worked there several years back, and both were junior network engineers. BUT in technology in the USA (and the EU) companies, there are far more development engineers from AFRICA (those of the rich class who got good educations in the UK and the USA of course).
You are a moron.
Please stop typing.
And you use California to "prove" the north is more racist than the south? LMAO..... Please look on a map and tell me where California is located!
@Jesus Is Fake: Yeah, he probably is fake just like you ! You may be cured if you get help in time.
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