Georgia Students Challenge Wilcox County High School’s Racially Segregated Proms
A group of students at a south Georgia high school that still has racially segregated proms and homecomings is organizing the first-ever integrated prom in school history.
Although integrated since 1971, Wilcox County High School in Rochelle holds two proms every April; one for white students, another for blacks. The school gets away with what would seem like a glaring violation of civil rights laws because technically, the school does not host the event. Parents do. Parents and students organize and fund the private dances, allowing them to exclude whoever they choose. Segregation is strictly enforced.
What would happen if a black student tried to attend the white prom?
“They would probably have the police come out there and escort them off the premises,” Keela Bloodworth, a white WCHS student who is among those organizing the integrated prom, told Fox 24.
That’s not mere conjecture. Last year, a mixed-race student was actually barred from entering the whites-only prom by police officers.
Homecoming is also segregated at WCHS. There have traditionally been two homecoming courts, one for each race. The school made history this year by electing only one court, with black student Quanesha Wallace crowned homecoming queen. But despite wearing the coveted crown, Wallace was not invited to the white homecoming dance, and she and the white homecoming king took separate photos for the school yearbook.
Wallace is now one of the students helping to host the integrated prom.
“I felt like there had to be a change,” Wallace told Fox 24. “For me to be a black person and the king to be a white person, I felt like ‘why can’t we come together?'”
Not everyone is feeling the love.
“I put up posters for the ‘Integrated Prom’ and we’ve had people ripping them down at the school,” Bloodworth told Fox 24.
Despite the efforts of the students organizing the integrated prom, there will still be two separate proms for white and black students.
Although locals claim that they come together, regardless of race, for important community events like WCHS football games, the demographic reality of Rochelle, a town of 1,200 residents located about 80 miles south of Macon, tells quite another story. Blacks, who make up about 50 percent of the population, live north of the railroad tracks. Whites, who comprise 45 percent of the population, live south of the tracks in far more prosperous conditions. According to USACityFacts, 20 percent of the town’s blacks are unemployed. Only 5 percent of whites are jobless. The median income for white residents is $22,396; for blacks, the figure is $14,358.
Morgan Pope, WCHS’s white 2008 homecoming queen, told journalist Cheree Franco that she never crosses the tracks into the black side of town.
“When the white kids want drugs, that’s where they go,” Pope said. “It’s dangerous over there.”
Many white Rochelle residents insist that WCHS proms are not segregated due to racism. Former WCHS student Regan Beale told Franco that her friends “aren’t racist, they’d just rather things be a certain way. They’d rather just have white people hang out with white people.”
“It’s the white people, the way they were raised, I guess,” Whitney Turner, another recent WCHS grad, told Franco. “I think it’s the white parents. They just don’t want their kids around blacks.”
“People are stuck in their old ways,” former WCHS student Rusheena Boone, who is black, told Franco. “They’re so traditional, they just don’t want to make the effort to change.”
But the group of students organizing the integrated prom are trying to change that. They’re hoping their event, which will take place on April 27, will be a success and they’ve set up a Facebook page with a donation link to help fund it. The group is also hosting a barbecue chicken plate sale fundraiser.
Interestingly, WCHS does host an integrated military ball that all Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) students must attend.
“Military Ball is mixed, and everybody has blast,” local Tyler McWhorter told Franco. When asked about the segregated proms, McWhorter shrugged and said, “people around here aren’t into change.”
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