Morgan Freeman and I have something in common; we both hate racism. We also love penguins but that’s another story. Mr. Voice-of-God, found out that a Mississippi high school was still holding segregated proms and decided to put a stop to it. Did you know some schools still hold segregated proms? What the hell? It’s 2008! Good going, America. Want to see a movie about Charleston High’s first integrated prom? Now you can. A Canadian named Paul Saltzman made a pretty good one called “Prom Night in Mississippi.”
It’s refreshing to hear the students speak about racism. The overall consensus is that racism is outdated, wrong, and a tribute that most of their parents share. The film’s biggest flaw is that it’s pretty one-sided. But there’s a reason—none of the white parents agreed to participate in the film…something about not wanting to come off as racist because they’re afraid of black boys grinding up on their Aryan daughters. One white father is interviewed and no matter how many times he claims not to be racist, claims to like black people, and so on, it’s hard to believe him when he grounds his daughter for dating a black classmate. Oh, did I mention that the white parents put together a White Prom? 100% White Meat. They didn’t even let the black students dance in the back of the room. We’ve come a long way since Rosa Parks. The camera crews aren’t allowed in but the fact that Homecoming King is too ashamed to tell any of his friends that he won the crown is a good sign that this generation’s at least headed in the right direction.
Saltzman heard about Freeman offering to pay for the first integrated prom and decided to move to Mississippi for a few months and check out what was going on. He and his crew got to know the people of Charleston, mostly the teenagers, and began putting the film together. The film is good—but it’s pretty much exactly what you’d think it would be. There’s a little history of Mississippi, there’s some interviews, some animated segments to show what the cameras didn’t record, and a long segment showing the historic dance. In the end, if the subject matter interests you, watch the movie. It’s a completely competent film that documents an important event. Sure, “Prom Night in Mississippi” seems more like “True Life: I Want to Dance but the Old White People Won’t Let Us” but it’s still worth watching and was definitely worth making.