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article imageWilcox County High School holds first ever racially mixed prom

By JohnThomas Didymus     Apr 29, 2013 in Lifestyle
Rochelle - It has been 60 years since the US Supreme Court ruled segregation in public schools illegal. But Wilcox High School in rural Wilcox County, an insular enclave in which racially segregated proms have persisted, held its first integrated prom Saturday.
According to The New York Times, for the first time in its history, Wilcox County High School held a dance prom open to both black and white students. WMAZ-TV reports that over the decades the school had avoided holding desegregated proms by allowing parents to sponsor separate proms for white and black students privately. The proms were not official school events.
According to ABC News, students have placed pressure on school authorities for many years to end the practice. Digital Journal reported that this year four students took up the challenge to end the decades tradition in spite of opposition from some members of the community.
They launched a social media campaign, raised money and organized an integrated prom. The students, two blacks and two whites, Ms. Mariesha Rucker, Stephanie Sinnott, Keela Bloodworth and Quanesha Wallace, initiated a Facebook campaign called "Integrated Prom," asking for donations and support to organize an integrated prom. The Facebook page gained thousands of followers and wide support across the country.
One of the girls Mareshia Rucker, said: “We were doing that so we could get the word out, so that some people would be able to donate and help us out with what we were doing."
According to WMAZ-TV, the prom was held at the Cordele Community Clubhouse in Crisp County.
Another of the girls told WMAZ-TV: "I didn't agree with the fact that they separated blacks and whites. so I just put my foot down and said, 'No, I'm not going to an all-white prom and I'm not going to go with somebody to an all-black prom, it's just not going to happen.I'm not going to go until everybody can be together.'"
However, the Daily Mail reports that at Saturday's "integrated prom," although some of the couples were "integrated," mostly, black students dated black students and white students dated whites.
Although the school board gave official support to hold the prom some members of the community openly resisted. The New York Times reports posters for the dance were ripped down and almost half the student population of white students boycotted the event. However, the prom was a success with nearly half of the school's student body attending. Many white students decided not to attend the "whites-only" prom last week so that they can attend the integrated prom.
According to Quanesha Wallace: "It turned out really well, I didn't even know this many people were coming, but I guess there was a lot of tickets being sold."
ABC News reports Rucker said: "Hopefully when everything is said and done, people in our county will really realize, that there is no sense in the way things are right now."
The school district reacted to the success of the integrated prom by announcing that next year's prom would be officially desegregated and supported by school authorities. Schools Superintendent Steven Smith, said: "Let’s face it: It’s 2013. Why are we even having this conversation? It became an embarrassment long ago."
But some members of the local community spoke in support of separate proms for black and white students. According to The New York Times, some white residents justified racially segregated proms by arguing that the two communities have different tastes in music, dance and popular culture.
Local resident and City Council member Wayne McGuinty, argued that holding separate proms was not racist but only a reflection of the differences in tradition and tastes between the black and white communities. He said the proms were racially segregated when he was a high school senior in the 1970s, and that there were also separate proms for those who liked rock music and those who liked country music.
He lamented the negative publicity the community was receiving, saying: "This whole issue has been blown out of proportion. Nobody had a problem with having two proms until it got all this publicity."
The New York Times reports segregated proms died out gradually in the South. Charleston, Miss. also recently holding its first mixed-race prom after the actor Morgan Freeman offered to pay for the event. In 2010, Montgomery County, Ga., stopped its segregated proms after an article in The New York Times Magazine focused on them.
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