High school students in Georgia’s rural Wilcox County held on Saturday their first integrated prom, more than half century since the nation’s high court ordered the benchmark desegregation of public schools, after students campaigned to reconcile their school’s decades-long tradition of extramural, racially-exclusive dances.
The school, whose students number only 400, has not historically sanctioned dances, instead leaving the administration of such events to students and parents. For prom, two private balls, one organized by and for each race, were held.
The unseemly tradition was expected to continue this year, but a vigorous social media campaign by four students, two white and two black, to host an integrated affair earned the Peach State mapdot international notoriety.
And thanks to the efforts of Better Georgia, an upstart band of local progressive agitators, the integration push also meant for Gov. Nathan Deal an unexpected political nuisance.
Sensing the opportunity to marginalize the governor with African American voters, the group publicly demanded Deal intervene. Deal demurred, his aides insisting the governor would not be hoodwinked by a “silly publicity stunt” orchestrated by a “leftist front group for the state Democratic Party.”
But the taciturn response only emboldened the group, whose operatives sowed critical headlines throughout the country. “Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal won’t respond to group’s call to end segregated prom,” one hed, at the highly-trafficked Huffington Post, read. Another from Creative Loafing, a popular Atlanta altweekly, read: “Deal spokesman calls integrated prom push a ‘silly publicity stunt.’”
For now, though, it seems the tradition (and taunting for Deal) has ended.
- James Richardson