In 1963, segregation kept local students in Birmingham, Alabama from enjoying the traditional dance that signifies the end of high school, as prom was delayed 50 years. Now, the tension-filled days of segregation in Alabama have passed, and the students from the Class of 63′ reunited to have the dance they always wanted.
The healing process was long and difficult for the city of Birmingham, and, in 1963, segregation was slowly disappearing, though the largest city in Alabama had a rough time making the transition. Due to the city’s struggles with the Civil Right’s Movement, five proms, all from black high schools, were cancelled after a march of protest by hundreds of local children.
On May 2, 1963, the hundreds of youngsters left school early and took to the streets in protest before being shut down by police. Dogs and fire hoses were used in response to the protest, bringing an end to the so-called “Children’s March.”
Thousands of people were arrested during the march, which also led to the cancellation of major high school events. The city announced shortly after the protest that all end-of-the-year activity would be canceled for the local high schools.
Prom wasn’t the only event cancelled, as the Class of 63′ was also left without a graduation. Now, after prom was delayed 50 years, they’ve been reunited at the local Boutwell Auditorium to share the experience they were denied as graduating seniors a half century ago.
According to CNN, Earnestine Thomas returned for the long awaited prom she never had, and she remembers the hard times and struggles leading up to the end of segregation.
“As a child, I recognized that it was unfair, but didn’t understand that there were laws propping (segregation) up,” Thomas told CNN while preparing for the historic prom.
After years of advocacy and major breakthroughs, the violence and hatred came to end, though Parker High School was never given there prom. The long await is finally over after prom was delayed 50 years, as the class of 1963 took to the dance floor and shared memories of the past while creating new ones they we’re originally denied.
[Image via Melinda Shelton]