Target: A student group in Wilcox County, Georgia.
Goal: To support the students’ organization of their school’s first racially integrated prom.
In 1954, the Supreme Court ruled the “separate but equal” doctrine unconstitutional in a landmark case that brought about the racial desegregation of schools and spurred a vicious and violent backlash against the decision. While America has made great strides in the past 50-plus years, resistance against desegregation is unfortunately alive and well in many parts of the country, including Wilcox County, Georgia. After Wilcox County High School desegregated just 30 years ago, the school stopped hosting its annual prom, leaving it to the parents and students to host their own dances. Each year the community holds separate prom and homecoming dances, one dance for white students and another for black students. This year is different, however, as one group of Wilcox students is organizing the school’s very first integrated prom.
Four of the student organizers, Stephanie Sinnot, Mareshia Rucker, Quanesha Wallace, and Keela Bloodworth, have been best friends since fourth grade. But because Keela and Stephanie are white and Quanesha and Mareshia are black, they wouldn’t have been able to enjoy prom together. Together with other students, the girls are taking a stand against the discriminatory tradition, despite opposition from some of their peers and Wilcox parents. Flyers promoting the integrated prom have been torn down around campus, and there will still be two proms held this year. The school itself has taken a decidedly “hands-off” approach to the situation, declining to fund or host any dance and denying students’ requests for a halt to segregated proms. Even some members of the community have turned a blind eye to the inherent inequality of segregated dances. As Rochelle City Councilman Wayne McGuinty told reporters, “I think it’s more of the personal opinions of those involved. I don’t think there is an effort made to keep black kids out of the white prom and to keep white kids out of the black prom.”
The very fact that a “white prom” and a “black prom” exist is proof of discrimination. In fact, when a biracial student attempted to attend the all-white prom in 2012, he was turned away and the police were called. Sign the petition below to demonstrate your support for the brave student organizers taking action against the inherent inequality of racial segregation and standing up to racial bigotry.
Dear Wilcox County students for an integrated prom,
When the news recently broke that a group of Georgia students were organizing a racially integrated prom this year, some people expressed shock that segregated dances still exist 59 years after “separate but equal” was ruled unconstitutional. But you and your friends know first hand of the inherent unfairness of racial segregation that is still perpetuated today. As you are well aware, it can be incredibly difficult to buck the long-held “traditions” of a community, no matter how ridiculous they are in this day and age.
Your efforts have received opposition from your peers, inaction by the school, and denial by members of the Wilcox community. When no one else seemed to recognize just how archaic and unequal the segregated dance tradition is, you not only questioned it, but decided to take the matter into your own hands. Your actions have not only drawn national attention, but you have set an admirable example for the rest of our country to take action against inequality no matter the strength of the opposition or the length of the tradition.
We are proud to show our support for your efforts to stand up against racial segregation in your hometown by establishing Wilcox County High School’s very first integrated prom. You too should also be proud of yourselves and your friends who bravely spoke up for fairness and equality.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Varin Tsai via Flickr