Prom Night in Wilson Hall

There were no limousines out­side the steps of Wilson Hall the night of Thursday, Septem­ber 27. Students did not trick­le through the halls with ball gowns and tuxes. However, one High School’s prom was depicted through film in the downstairs instruction room in Wilson Hall.

First year English students viewed the documentary Prom Night in Mississippi, directed by Paul Saltman. The documen­tary discusses the controversy of Charleston’s first prom with stu­dent integration, but also racism present in the surrounding com­munity.

Prom was a momentous oc­casion for those who had the privilege of attending. Students of Charleston High School in Charleston, Mississippi expe­rienced different memories as they attended their first integrat­ed prom in school history.

The prom was funded by Mor­gan Freeman, A-list celebrity and former resident of Charles­ton, Mississippi. His first re­quest to fund a “mixed prom” for the school was in 1997, and in 2008 his second request was eventually accepted by school administrators.

Although this request was ac­cepted, parents of the communi­ty did not agree with the school’s decision and took their own mea­sures in offering a white prom. This tradition of separate proms and social events has been in ac­tion since 1970.

Charleston High students not only endured pressures of prom dates, attire and choosing prom themes, but they also had to wonder if this mixed prom would cause chaos in the small southern community of Missis­sippi. It may seem silly to some to think this prom occurred dur­ing recent times and why gen­erations still have not embraced different races and change. It may be stubborn traditions and poor economies with added ig­norance; regardless the SupremCourt ruled in 1954 that separate is not equal.

Glen Sumner, father of Heath­er Sumner, 17, doesn’t agree that his daughter is dating someone of a different race. Glen ground­ed and punished Heather who continued to see 17-year-old Jer­emy Harris. “She overcame all that,” Glenn Sumner says as he sits on his tractor trailer.

Heather and Jeremy don’t show a lot of affection as a couple. There’s limited hand holding, no swapping of kisses in the school hallway, they both understand that as an interracial couple they have to monitor their actions.

While they have plans for mar­riage one day, Glen hopes Heath­er and Jeremy grow apart after high school and go their separate ways.

Most students have been taught to date in their race. They fear if they didn’t they might be disowned. One student even re­called their grandmother stating that “God made us a color to be with our color.”

This idea of color means very little to the students of Charles­ton High who reject this belief and have made friendships with those of different races. When students were asked if they ever dated someone of a different race, the answer was no, but they didn’t know why.

Freeman claims that it’s a be­lief instilled throughout our lives not to date those of a different race. “These are chains we have around our souls,” said Freeman.

If parents taught their children not to date outside of their race, chances are they won’t, unless they have learned that race does not matter like Heather and Jer­emy have.

It’s difficult to predict that intime things will change, it took until 2008 to have an integrat­ed prom, only because Morgan Freeman offered to pay the cost.

On March 21, 2008 in Bates­ville, Mississippi at the VFW, students of the white race gath­ered for a parent produced white prom. A freshman says, “I knew there was racism. It sounds ri­diculous (to have a white only prom), I guess its common na­ture.”

Mona Ripee, mother of Charleston student Chance Ripee ,said that society is responsible for what we do. She, however, is giving her son a choice to attend whichever prom he wants. Kelly Schulhafer, a freshman, said, “I turned out to like (Prom Night in Mississippi) it. I didn’t know it was like that in 2008.”

Senior Chasidy of Charleston presses for change to happen. She interviews most students on the ‘Student Cam’ for his/her honest opinion.

Caucasian seniors like Jessica and Andy are friends with a lot of the student body, including the African American students. Unfortunately, their openness has hurt their reputations and even prevented Jessica from ob­taining certain jobs in town.

During the actual prom, Mr. Aaron Johnson and Ms. Frances­ca House were nominated King and Queen; both were African- American students at Charles­ton. Sumner and Harris received a round of applause when they walked into the prom arm-in-arm.

The rest of the students left prejudice and difference at the door. They were celebrating April 19, 2008 as not only their senior prom, but the first inte­grated prom in school history