prom night in mississippi

ONE TOWN. TWO PROMS.
UNTIL NOW.

1954
The U.S. Supreme Court orders the integration of all segregated schools in America, including all their events.

1970
The town of Charleston, Mississippi, finally allows black students into their one high school. White parents refuse to integrate the school Graduation Dance, starting a tradition of separate, parent-organized White Proms and Black Proms.

2008

Change happens.

Oh. My. Goodness. Guys did you see this!?  Last night was the premiere of the HBO documentary Prom Night in Mississippi.  It was just so darn good.  One of my favorite documentaries ever!  In case you haven’t heard, the town of Charleston, MS had been holding two separate, segregated proms since the schools integrated in 1970.  Morgan Freeman offered to pay for the prom in 2007 if  they would just hold one for all of the students.  His offer was declined.  He tried again in 2008 and his offer was accepted.  The film exposes the climate of race relations in Mississippi and makes clear that this up and coming generation must make a conscious choice to break the cycle of division.

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I have long been a fan of Morgan Freeman.  Probably since the first time I saw the movie Glory. Then he sealed the deal with Robin Hood and Shawshank.  Anyway, I was inspired by the way he spoke to the students and handled the adults on the school board, but the most poignant Morgan moment for me was when he said “If I go around hating you because you have blond hair and blue eyes, I’m doomed. You’re fine, but I’m doomed.”  I believe that with all my heart.  I’m always saying that this racism thing is a double edged sword.  On the surface it may seem like it’s just those being discriminated against who are being hurt by it, but I’ve always felt that most of the damage is done to the discriminator.  I just loved hearing him say that.

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There is a section of the film where the students are so openly talking about the ways they’ve been taught to be racist and pondering why this could be.  Some of the white kids come to the conclusion that it must be that their people don’t want mixed kids in their family.  That’s why the adults are so afraid of an integrated prom.  We’re told that one parent said, “I don’t want no n****r grinding up on my daughter.  I won’t have no mixed kids in this family.”  The fact that people think this way is certainly not news to me.  It’s my history.  I know it well.  And yet, I was so uncomfortable hearing it spoken aloud.  Like kinda squirmy.

There is one interracial couple in the film.  Heck, there is probably one interracial couple in the whole town, and they happen to be students at the school.  They do not hold hands in public.  They have never been on a date because her father, who insists that he is not racist, will not allow it.  He hasn’t “whooped her or nothin”, but he grounded her and took her phone away.  To his dismay she overcame it all and is still dating Jeremy.  They got the most applause during the senior walk at the prom.

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There are so many things I want to relay, but really I think you should just see the film.  Please.

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6 thoughts on “prom night in mississippi

  1. I tivo’d it, just watched it….. stunning that this was/is still going on. I give Morgan Freeman props for exposing this! I am curious if they had 1 prom in 2009? Couldn’t find anything on that.

    The parents should be ashamed of themselves! But also what cowards they are to not ever want to show their face and get a lawyer( are you kidding me). I am so proud of the students in this, they are our FUTURE!!!!

  2. they did have one prom in 2009. a separate white prom was held again, but attendance was down. yay!

  3. Just saw it last night. Had friends who grew up like that and it was interesting hearing how they went through that..and still in the 21st century?

    Good for Mr. Freeman.

  4. I heard about the doc but it’s not available on HBO Canada. Thanks for the gist of it Tiff. Morgan Freeman also did the March of the Penguins movie. I bet he gets paid by the word now. It’s good that he is actively trying the change the status-quo in Mississippi, but it angers me beyond belief that there is a need in this day and age. At this point I have nothing more to say because every sentence I think of involves swearing and profanity., so I’ll leave it at that. My interactions with southerners have always been ‘memorable’, to say the least.

  5. i remember a few years ago i watched a movie with Raven called For One Night. Which was based on a true story too. it was also about separate proms, one for white and one for black….but this one was in georgia, i think.

    and i just watched the documentary. its kinda scary that this is a little more common than we realize.

    i found the parents to be pretty pathetic…they dont mind spouting off their hate…but like most modern racists…they love the benefits that come with no one knowing your true colors…so they keep it private….

    if you have to hide it, you know thinking that way is wrong then.

    its weird…you couldnt even get to me to go my junior or senior prom in high school….i wouldnt even step foot at any school dances or activities at that school there.

    my school had its race problems too, but not to extent as their school, in fact the prom king at the senior prom from my high school was a really cute biracial guy( he was preppy and popular too)…go figure lol.

  6. Pingback: Prom Night in Mississippi (2009) | All Films Blog

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