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ABBEVILLE, Georgia (WMGT) — Dressed in glorious ball gowns and tuxedos, Wilcox County, Georgia high school seniors slipped into limousines headed off to senior prom; it’s a celebration of the school’s year end and the beginning of a new era.
“I feel like we are living Martin Luther King’s dream,” said Alexis Miller.
Miller, a Caucasian student at Wilcox County High School, dates an African-American.
For decades, separate segregated dances divided the community and forced students like Miller to choose a side, until now. On Saturday night, Miller and her boyfriend dressed up and went to Wilcox County’s first integrated prom together.
The ‘dream’ was finally realized by Mariesha Rucker, a Wilcox County High School senior. Rucker and a group of her friends, two white students and two black students, came up with the idea and started raising money to host the prom. As word spread, so did the support. Photographers, disc jockeys, speakers, community members and media from across the nation were in Cordele this weekend for the prom.
“I commend them for doing what we should’ve done a long time ago,” said Terry Thomas, a Wilcox County High alumni.
Racially-segregated proms have been held in Wilcox County almost every year since the schools integrated in the 1970s. In a longstanding 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”. While such traditions seem taboo in 2013, the segregated proms still have supporters.
On April 20, just one week before the integrated prom, the “white prom” went on as planned. Parents and students who attended declined to comment.
The NAACP has called on school officials to step in and host a school-sponsored prom and end the segregation. As of right now, Wilcox County does not sponsor a prom at all.
The school system’s superintendent Steve Smith said that Prom 2014 would be placed on the agenda, but so far, no action has been taken.
Wilcox County High School’s principal Chad Davis refused to comment.
Neither Davis nor Smith attended the integrated prom Saturday night.