Wilcox County High School
is a small, rural school, located three hours south of Atlanta. Recently, in a school district that serves some 1,300 students in total. The high school has been in the news for it's continued tradition of holding segregated proms, and for the efforts of some of the local students to raise funds to hold the first officially integrated prom in the community's history
. Though, most students were welcome to the "black prom,"
the first officially integrated prom happened this past Saturday. So many donors came forward, from around the world, that the students say they have money left over to help local families in need
. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean an end to the community's history of segregated proms, as the "white prom" was still held, but a week earlier
in Fitzgerald, Georgia, less than 10 miles south of the Wilcox County border.
The history of segregated proms
goes back to the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education
. Some schools opted to not hold their own proms, instead allowing the communities to hold their own events, bypassing any laws against segregation. This practice has slowly been dying out. In 1997, Morgan Freeman offered to fund a racially integrated prom in his hometown of Charleston, Mississippi
, but the community declined. A decade later, he made the same offer, and they accepted. That first integrated prom was documented in Prom Night in Mississippi
. In 2002, Taylor County, Georgia, held its first integrated prom, only to have some white students hold another segregated event the next year
. The U.S. Department of Justice stepped in to desegregate the high school's voting for "senior favorites" based on race
, and such scrutiny lead to a school-sponsored integrated prom
. 2004 saw a third prom in Toobs County, Georgia
, where some Hispanic students threw their own prom, adding to the prior black and white proms, further separating the 769 students of Toombs County High School. In 2009, Montgomery County High School in Georgia received news coverage for their segregated prom
, and the next year, parents put on the school's first integrated prom
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal was asked by the progressive group, Better Georgia, to join seven Georgia state representatives, both Democrats and Republicans, in supporting the students' efforts. The first response came on April 11th from the Governor's spokesman, Brian Robinson
, who wrote, "This is a leftist front group for the state Democratic party and we're not going to lend a hand to their silly publicity stunt," which overlooks the fact that the effort was put forth from the students, and they had raised enough funding for their integrated prom back on April 5th. Some Wilcox County High School students said that this was "political suicide,"
as he offended a bunch of young people who could vote against him in the next election. A later comment from Robinson was a bit more polite and political
, stating that "the governor expects and trusts that local leaders will find a long-term solution that protects the equal rights of all students, regardless of race or ethnic background." These statements, and the other "facts" mentioned in news coverage of Wilcox County High's proms were discussed in two opinion pieces, first by Rev. Raphael Warnock, who was not comforted by Robinson's comments, and the second by a Wilcox County businessman, Wayne McQuinty, who pointed out the multicultural gathering to be held at the Wilcox County Relay for Life event
. In an news article from April 6th, it was reported that the Wilcox County Board of Education and the Superintendent to discuss their plans
for hosting an integrated prom. The Board and Superintendent not only applauded the idea, but passed a resolution requesting that all activities involving WCS students be inclusive and non-discriminatory. The Wilcox County School System is now considering sponsoring an integrated prom in 2014.