In 1997, Academy Award–winning actor Morgan Freeman offered to pay for the senior prom at Charleston High School in Mississippi under one condition: the prom had to be racially integrated. His offer was ignored. In 2008, Freeman offered again. This time the school board accepted, and history was made. Charleston High School had its first-ever integrated prom—in 2008! Until then, blacks and whites had had separate proms even though their classrooms have been integrated for decades. Canadian filmmaker Paul Saltzman follows students, teachers, and parents in the lead-up to the big day. Freeman addresses the student body. Girls shop for dresses and get their hair done. Boys rent tuxedoes and buy corsages. These seemingly inconsequential rites of passage suddenly become profound as the weight of history falls on teenage shoulders. We quickly learn that change does not come easily in this sleepy Delta town. Freeman’s generosity fans the flames of racism—and racism in Charleston has a distinctly generational tinge. Some white parents forbid their children to attend the integrated prom and hold a separate white-only dance. "Billy Joe," an enlightened white senior, appears on camera in shadow, fearing his racist parents will disown him if they know his true feelings. Prom Night In Mississippi captures a big moment in a small town, where hope finally blossoms in black, white, and a whole lot of taffeta.
This was one of the more shocking things I've seen recently! It gave me the same feeling as Right America: Feeling Wronged, in that I can't believe that places like this still exist in the 21st century. I've never been to the rural South, but, wow, I imagine it would be quite a culture shock. The level of open racism is rather startling.