Freeman film story of Miss. town's first integrated prom - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Freeman film story of Miss. town's first integrated prom

By Anna Marie Hartman - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - A documentary about a Mississippi high school's first integrated prom kicks off this year's On Location International Film Festival.

A segregated prom in decades past would come as no surprise. But "Prom Night in Mississippi" tells the true story of Charleston High School's first integrated prom in 2008.   
The surprising problem of segregation between black and white students caught the attention of Oscar-winning actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman.  

"They have separate proms and separate homecoming queens - one white, one black. How stupid can that be?" Freeman says in the film.

In 2007, Freeman teamed up with filmmaker Paul Saltzman to chronicle his attempt to bring white and black students together for their annual prom.

He put the offer back on the table," said Saltzman, the film's producer. "We got permission to film, and my wife Patricia and I moved to rural Mississippi for four and half months."

Saltzman, who's in town for the film's Memphis premier, said Freeman got approval from school administrators. He then offered a blank check to the students for their prom.

And in 2008, Charleston High finally held its first integrated prom.

But the journey provides a hard look at the prejudice passed down from generation to generation, and highlights how - despite great strides in equality - racism still permeates the fabric of Southern culture.

"Our hope, our wish is that people - anybody, but especially young people - come out of the film and they look within themselves," said Saltzman. "We all have beliefs and prejudices, and change truly starts in here."

The film has already received several awards and was recently purchased by HBO for a July cable debut. 

The On Location Memphis International Film Festival will feature 100 films over a 4 days. It runs through Sunday at the Malco Ridgeway 4 in East Memphis. 
Click here to visit the festival's Web site.

Click here to visit the Web site of "Prom Night in Mississippi".


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