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Making moves toward unity
May 24th, 2013
02:45 PM ET

Grads leave lasting legacy: Integrated prom

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.

Read the full post on CNN's Schools of Thought blog
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Filed under: Education • How we live • Race
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. onlyaride

    I've heard about this before. All I can say is welcome to the present, kids. Hope you have a good time, and don't get killed drinking and driving! And one other thing, to a couple of you... If you live your life trying to live up to some "heritage", or to please your bigoted parents, you won't have much of a life left to be your own. Don't get caught up in it. You only get one ride. Enjoy it on your terms.

    July 19, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Rebecca

    I'm shocked at the racism on this page. Guess what...I have 2 grandchildren that are of Cajun, Portuguese, & Polish descent; 3 that are of of Cajun, Portuguese & Irish descent; 1 of German & African American descent; 1 of German & American Indian descent. I love ALL of them equally....No disappointment or bewilderment on my face...only pride & love. I take EVERY chance I get to show them off!! In our family we teach to judge people for who they are & how they are, but we DON'T judge the color of their skin or what their racial background is. With all the unrest we've had regarding prejudice in this country, my disappointment & bewilderment are reserved for the backwards thinkers that perpetuate racism.

    July 6, 2013 at 4:19 am | Report abuse |
    • thoughtfullysimple

      It is so nice to hear someone who understands that the blood in which runs through our veins is the same in every single person on the planet. Equality and freedom should be treated as something that is common law and natural instead of a right in which to fight for. Thank you for your amazing comments.

      July 11, 2013 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. 3ARSHALL

    As long as there are different races (white,black,brown,yellow,red) there will be racism. Some yellows don't like whites. Some reds don't like whites. Some blacks don't like whites. Some browns don't like whites. AND some whites don't like other whites.(not all white people are born and raised in america.) So there you have it! racism will always exist.

    June 20, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BRUCE

    This is direct proof of Einstein's multidimensional universe theory.In most parts of the Country it is 2013 and in Southern Georgia it is 1963

    June 15, 2013 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jackie

    Why would anyone think their skin color is superior to another? It makes no sense to say these people date outside their race for show...how about they do it for love. I never cared about color, if you treat me well, and I'm attracted to you, you could be green for all i care just be a good person. Color is just a color, none is better than another. Its so sad that its 2013 and THIS IS STILL AN ISSUE....Are there not bigger things to worry about in the world other than someone dating outside their race? I really don't get it... If you don't want to date outside your race its simple don't do it, but don't judge another person on it because you think its wrong. Chances are their are dozens of things you do that other people don't agree on, and would you want judged for living your life?

    June 13, 2013 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I'll bet your parents would be proud. Don't you understand the importance of heritage ?

      June 14, 2013 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
      • Jackie

        Actually yes my parents are proud!! They absolutely LOVE my Fiancee (he's black), and they can't get enough of our biracial daughter!! You're comment was not only ignorant but makes you look uneducated! Take a look at your family tree...I bet if you have some color in your "heritage" as well!!

        June 14, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • James

        You have no understanding of history or your own heritage. But you can justify you own pathetic existence through your own misunderstanding of who you are and where you come from

        June 17, 2013 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
      • Peter Beck

        I have no problem with a person's right to date whoever they choose, but it is not racism to point out that younger generations completely dismiss their own family's heritage. I don't think our ancestors were racists just because they chose to marry someone of the same race. Society now encourages interracial marriage- look at advertising. A friend showed me wedding photographs of his granddaughter's marriage to a black man. The expressions on the faces of both of the couple's parents and guests was telling- anger, bewilderment, resignation. Even the bride and groom were unhappy. His granddaughter and her new husband consciously chose to alienate their families, culture and heritage, and are now miserable. If the people across the globe ultimately all look the same, as in Ira Levin's "This Perfect Day," wouldn't this be a dull, boring world?

        June 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
      • sbrad21

        oh, I see, you are speaking of "privilege" .

        June 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
  6. darquarious

    I'm still surprised it almost always is the black guys with the white girls, but so seldom is it the white guys with the black girls.
    Where are the black girls and white dudes?

    June 13, 2013 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Aly Daley

      I'm not sure where you're from or living, but that's common where I'm from! Hopefully you'll get to visit S. FL, NYC, or LA soon!

      June 13, 2013 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • cobra30689

      Next door. My neighbor is white and has a black girlfriend. There ya go....

      June 22, 2013 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. TonyaW

    Raul,
    Science and evolution has taught us that man probably originated in Africa or the Middle East; geography and the ability to survive in different climates caused our skin colours to adapt. In the end we will all be brown; I agree it very important to preserve one's culture but you don't have to hate another to do so. There are people of every race who see things as you do, I don't mind their opinions, and my multi-raced children do not need affirmations from anyone to co-exist peacefully with everyone.

    June 12, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dragonfire77

    The fact that this is still an issue in America tells us how far we have yet to go.

    June 12, 2013 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. Nat Turner

    Sadly it is the "adults" that perpetuate racist acts such as segregated proms. If let alone, the children show more decency and maturity as to whom they associate with. Once that old racist generation dies out, things will be MUCH better! And they call themselves good Christians, down in the Bible Belt. What a farce!

    June 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • mc

      Because we're all Americans and have the right to date and marry who we choose.

      June 11, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      People have their own views... I just find hard to believe people still think that way.

      June 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dmitry

    What? They had segregated proms all these years?

    June 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • raul

      By choice. Some people don't like Country music and some don't like Hip-hop. Whats wrong with that? :P

      June 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aly Daley

      I was shocked too when I read this...but I guess that's why the article made it clear that it was "rural" part of town LOL!

      June 13, 2013 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kristin Joi

    2013 I never thought this would be such a hot issue still... this showes how oblivious I am, a northerner and proud member of the United States Army, to my own country that we still had segregated proms etc. Its sad that as a nation stapled as the melting pot are fighting the battle with race however disappointed I am is leveled to the wave of change the future generation is bringing to helm. As I sit back and think about the life I live, with a black mother and a white step father, and a black father and a white step mother as I am approaching my 3 generation of life this is still taboo in the United States. The color of the skin does NOT make the "man", it is superficial, the Character of that person is what makes them a "man" of worth. If this is happening here in this school and one is identified there are sure to be more. The nation I choose to defend as we fight for freedom and liberation in other countries, we still fight to change the dynamics in our own backyard. I respect the youth and the faculty who fought for this to happen, and will happily defend the nation of change/equality.

    June 10, 2013 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Kristin Joi

      shows***

      June 10, 2013 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • TonyaW

      I agree Kristin, visit any military community and you will truly see that race is not an issue. It is very surpising to see this during my kids' generation.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. forreal89

    big deal this is happening all over

    June 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aly Daley

      Therefore....it IS a big deal!

      June 13, 2013 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chuck

    Her parents must be so proud... not,,,, If Black is beautiful why do black men always want White women????

    June 4, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • TonyaW

      Chuck, black is beautiful...are white, asian, latino, etc...and that is why black men date outside their race. Beauty comes in very race. Yep, it's just that simple.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
      • raul

        None are beautiful if we all become mulatto. There is nothing wrong with anyone wanting to preserve their race or heritage or culture. People need to stop treating it like a crime if someone doesn't believe in crossing races.

        June 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
      • TonyaW

        Raul,
        Science and evolution has taught us that man probably originated in Africa or the Middle East; geography and the ability to survive in different climates caused our skin colours to adapt. In the end we will all be brown; I agree it very important to preserve one's culture but you don't have to hate another to do so. There are people of every race who see things as you do, I don't mind their opinions, and my multi-raced children do not need affirmations from anyone to co-exist peacefully with everyone.

        June 12, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marsha

      Sit down hater!!

      June 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • marc

      It takes two to be considered a couple. Why don't you ask yourself how come White women always want Black men if White is so perfect.

      June 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chuck

    Her parents must be so proud.... why is it if Black is so beautiful, they always want White women?????????

    June 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nat Turner

      Chuck is a bitter, outdated person who will die being a racist. Most likely your children or grandchildren will be involved in interracial relationships and produce nice brown babies for you!

      June 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob B

    Thank...I bet the father of the girl in that pic is just thrilled.

    June 4, 2013 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • marc

      It's very likely he is thrilled maybe her father isn't a racist like you.

      June 12, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Bree

    Hmm...I skipped my prom to make money off babysitting for the teen parents who wanted to attend. And let me say, I don't think they cared less who was there or what music was playing.

    June 4, 2013 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
  17. Killy

    test

    June 3, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Karen

    This is fairly common. The kids are paying for and planning their proms. The schools cannot legally force them to attend integrated proms if they choose not to. Before you insult the State of Georgia know your facts, the kids choose separate proms for the music. They usually attend each others proms too. It's a choice the kids make not the school. This year the kids chose to have one prom. That's all.

    June 1, 2013 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • TonyaW

      I honestly have no idea where you are coming up with this line of thinking. Granted I've lived overseas (Germany and England) for the past 8 years and am recently returned, I have NEVER heard of kids (on their own) creating separate proms. Perhaps you mean after-parties, but not proms. I'm from Florence, SC and we have 3 high schools and our town is not the most culturally diverse in the world but after the 60s I don't believe there were EVER segregated proms.

      June 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aly Daley

      That's ridiculous and if you live here and allow you children to continue this tradition "solely based on music," then shame on you for raising "Trophy Kids." I would never allow my child to do something that is exclusive to another race bc of "music." The real world (i.e. workplace, school, etc) are not based off of things like that, so when they enter it, I pray those children are ready for what's coming...bc heaven forbid they go to a college or workforce where other people don't share their likings!

      June 13, 2013 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
      • Peter

        Er... I think the real world IS based like that. I listen to classic FM, not HipHop FM – music segregates everyone. Next time you go to the opera, just have a look how many non-white people you see there. Sadly we don't all like the same music – would be good if we did as we could be more united.

        June 19, 2013 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Qbnchk

      One of the captions states that one kid would "most likely not be allowed to attend" his girlfriends prom because he is black... That doesn't sound like freedom of choice to me, Karyn. The whole music issue sounds like a lame excuse to keep an old tradition going except those that have enforced it this long fail to realize that kids now a days have a better sense of what life is about...what freedom is about... what the human race is about.
      That would not fly out here in the land of fruits and nuts :-)

      June 19, 2013 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Alex R

    I still don't believe it! I know racism still exists, but the actual official practice of it. I say shame to the leaders and official who let this occur, and hooray and cheers to all the students and people who step up to these atrocities. How can, as a country, reach full prosperity and accomplishment if we can't even accept who we are as a nation. Get with it people. It's 2013.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin R

      Surprised? Not me, I knew it had to be GA when I saw the headline. That's one reason I was so glad to move out of that pathetic state last year.

      May 31, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
      • IRISH

        It could be worse, you could live in california, the land of fruits and nuts!

        June 2, 2013 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      Very many high schools still have separate proms. This is the choice usually of black students. The schools do not force students to have integrated proms if they don't want too. If they did force them you would be fighting for their right to decide.

      June 1, 2013 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
      • TonyaW

        Karen,
        Stop with the made up facts. To say this is to say that black kids don't enjoy non-ethnic music. My son plays in the orchestra, listens to various types of music and enjoys all people. Just stop.

        June 11, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • m12

      problem is people like yourself read this biased piece of poor journalism not knowing that there are no proms sanctioned by the school.
      That means no one is holding a segregated prom at this school
      Good job of outright journalistic lying, CNN

      June 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
      • Poltergiest

        It's a largely academic distinction. It would be illegal for the school to host such a prom directly, so even if all the staff were down for the idea it would have to be private. Other than that all the social effects of the segregatory action remain the same whether the school directly endorses the prom or not. Jim Crow remnants of any sort look backwards

        June 4, 2013 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  20. Erin D

    I didn't realize this kind of thing still existed. Way to go Wilcox County High School for stepping up! I hope that this will inspire other high schools to make a change.

    May 29, 2013 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • QueenaDina

      I'm with you – I'm shocked to hear this – Good Job Miss Ana – Well Done! God bless you

      May 30, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • bill

      quite right, an integrated event should't even be news in this day and age, kudos to the kids for doing the right thing. here's hoping for the day when it won't be news.

      May 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
      • Karen

        The kids are given a choice, both black and white. This year they chose to integrate last year they didn't. The kids usually choose separate because of music. They are kids and it's their proms. Schools do not make the decision that would be illegal.

        June 1, 2013 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  21. Jeff E

    Wow. I haven't been in High School since like 1986, and even then we were integrated, get with the program hicks.

    May 28, 2013 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
  22. richard miller

    ick

    July 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |