Almost half a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial discrimination in schools and other public places, black and white students in Georgia's rural Wilcox County danced together for the first time at prom over the weekend.
"I feel like we are living Martin Luther King's dream," NBC station WMGT 41 quoted student Alexis Miller as saying. Miller, who is white, attended Saturday's event with her black boyfriend.
Racially segregated proms have been held in Wilcox County almost every year since the schools integrated in the 1970s. In a long-standing tradition, parents raised money to host separate dances, the community referred to one as the "black prom" and the other as the "white prom." Traditionally, most students were welcome to the "black prom" but an unwritten rule kept students of different races from attending the "white prom."
Wilcox County High School was quick to point out on its website that it hasn’t organized or hosted the segregated proms that have been traditional. It called the events “private parties” over which it “has no influence.”
Additionally, the school hosts an integrated dance called the Military Ball and says it will discuss making next year’s prom an inclusive, official school event.
However, the NAACP has put the onus on Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, starting a petition calling on him to “put an end to segregated proms, homecomings, and other school related social events.”
But perhaps nothing had as much impact as a Facebook page started by the small group of students who organized the integrated prom.
As of Monday, with the prom finished, the page, carrying the banner “Love Has No Color” had almost 30,000 “likes.”
So many donors came forward – from as far away as Australia -- that the students say they have money left over to help local families in need. And the publicity brought in DJs from Atlanta and Texas to provide the music.
The students’ appeal was simple and from the heart:
“We live in rural south Georgia, where not too many things change,” the page says. “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.”
On its website, Wilcox County Schools praised the efforts of the student organizers, saying they were seeking "to right the wrongs of the past."