If you thought that the doctrine of “separate but equal” was done away when the U.S. Supreme Court deemed segregated public schools unconstitutional in 1954, think again.
In Rochelle, a small town in Wilcox County, Georgia, students attend separate proms: white students from Wilcox County attend one, and African-American students, another. These are private events organized by parents and students, not the school district.
When the school was integrated 30 years ago, it ended its annual prom and parents began sponsoring their own private dances for students. The prom and homecoming dances have been segregated ever since.
According to WSFA, a biracial student tried to attend an all-white prom last year; he was turned away and the police were called.
As someone who has taught in high schools around the U.S. and attended several proms (but never in the southern states), I have a hard time even imagining this.
From ABC news:
“We’re embarrassed; it’s embarrassing,” white high school senior Stephanie Sinnot told WGXA-TV, the ABC News affiliate in Macon, Ga.
But all this could finally change in 2013.
A biracial group of four best friends who attend Wilcox County High School are raising money to organize the school’s very first racially integrated prom in the town of nearly 1,200 people, about 51 percent of them white, 46 percent black, according to census figures. The dance will be held on April 27.
Stephanie Sinnot, Mareshia Rucker, Quanesha Wallace and Keela Bloodworth (seen above) are best friends, and feel it’s just not right that they can’t go to prom together.
“We live in rural south Georgia, where not too many things change,” they wrote on a Facebook page they created, entitled “Love Has No Color.” “Well, as a group of adamant high school seniors, we want to make a difference in our community. For the first time in the history of our county, we plan to have an integrated prom.”
The prom’s Facebook page has garnered around 19,000 “likes” since it was set up last Wednesday, with a lot of positive comments. “I am shocked and amazed as an American that in this day and age this sort of segregation continues. More power to you as students and leaders that you take the bill by the horns and change such an antiquated and prejudicial situation. Hope you have a wonderful time at your prom!!” one person wrote.
Another contributed: “You are civil rights leaders of 2013 I am so encouraged by what you are doing. I believe that your generation has the power to make things better. Keep going and never give up.”
The response at Wilcox High has been more mixed, as some students have been ripping down posters for the integrated prom.
The Wilcox County schools website does not list a prom in its calendar of events, nor is the controversy referenced in their “School News” section. And while they have stated their support for the idea, they have not contributed to prom costs for 30 years, and apparently don’t intend to start now.
But kudos to Stephanie, Mareshia, Quanesha and Keela for having the courage to demand change. However this prom turns out, they are challenging the assumptions of a segregated past, and that takes a lot of guts.
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Photo Credit: WSFA online video