Racial segregation in public schools may have been rendered unconstitutional in 1954, but in Wilcox County, GA, echoes of that ugly tradition are alive and well. End-of-the-year proms are divided into two categories—one designated for white students and the other for non-whites. And attendance by one race at the prom of another has historically resulted in a phone call to local cops.
But those days may be numbered. For the first time in the area’s history, Wilcox County High School seniors are raising money to hold their first-ever racially inclusive prom—yes, its very first…in 2013.
One of the high schoolers spearheading the effort is Keela Bloodworth, who reported to local news station, WSFA, “It’s embarrassing to know I’m from the county that still does this.”
It’s important to note that Wilcox County High School’s proms aren’t actually sponsored by the school. These dances are privately funded by parents, and they’re held off of school grounds, so they’ve so far escaped any consequence for remaining segregated.
And some residents are invested in keeping it that way. Bloodworth said that while many students have embraced the idea of an integrated prom, there’s also been a good amount of backlash in response to her initiative, including the frequent disappearance of the advertising fliers she and her friends have posted locally.
But resistance isn’t entirely unexpected. Wilcox is a rural county in Georgia, not known for its willingness to embrace change; while Brown v. Board of Education happened in 1954, 41NBC reports the high school itself didn’t integrate its classes until the early 1980s.
Bloodworth and her friends are determined to speed things up, however. On the Facebook donation page dedicated to their cause, the students explain that this is about more than a dance: “Well, as a group of adamant high school seniors, we want to make a difference in our community.”
And they’re getting there quickly. The integrated prom is scheduled for April 27, and so far, the students have raised about $1,000 to fund it. Not bad, but that number could increase exponentially: As of this morning, their story went viral, and their Facebook donation page quadrupled in “Likes” in just a matter of hours.
Racism is far from dead in this country, but blatant segregation like this is so outrageous a prospect, the idea of teaching it to high school students borders on the surreal. But while it’s easy to get angry about the lessons this community is teaching its children, the win is that the students themselves are smart enough not to listen.
Privately funded or not, how would you respond to a segregated prom in your hometown? Let us know in the Comments.
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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com. Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com