Prom Night in Mississippi

 Latailliah Williams, student at Charleston High dances at her senior prom (photo, courtesy of Paul Saltzman)

Latailliah Williams, student at Charleston High dances at her senior prom (photo, courtesy of Paul Saltzman)

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In this decade, segregation is thought of as a thing of the past, a piece of history. Yet, up until now, a town in Mississippi has held two separate proms for its students. One for black. One for white.

Charleston High School in Mississippi had their first-ever integrated prom in 2008 when a donor offered to pay for the entire senior prom only under the condition that the prom be completely integrated. This donor was actor Morgan Freeman, who was raised in Charleston until the age of six.

Paul Saltzman, a Canadian filmmaker, caught wind of the idea for his film “Prom Night in Mississippi” when a young girl mentioned to him that her high school still held separate proms. Ten years earlier, Morgan Freeman had offered to cover the expenses for the entire prom night at that same school, but the school board refused his offer. “I asked Morgan about it and he confirmed the story.” said Saltzman, “I asked if he was willing to try again and he said yes.” The second time Freeman went to the school board with the same offer, they accepted. Saltzman then began shooting his film. As producer and director, he followed students, teachers, as well as parents leading up to the big night.

Latailliah Williams, student at Charleston High dances at her senior prom (photo, courtesy of Paul Saltzman)

Thursday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m., “Prom Night in Mississippi” will be shown at the Ann Arbor District Library (downtown location). Following the film, Paul Saltzman will lead a post-film discussion.

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