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First Integrated Prom Gets High High Marks from Students

May 14, 1990

FORT VALLEY, Ga. (AP) _ Nearly 20 years after Peach County High School was integrated, black and white students got together Saturday night for their first integrated prom.

Many of the 200 students who attended the dance said the change was long overdue.

″Somebody is going to come along every time and break some tradition that’s really stupid, some tradition you don’t really think about because you’ve always done it,″ said Hope Bickley, a white 17-year-old. ″I’m glad it was our class that broke it.″

Ms. Bickley and Ato Crumbly, a black student, are friends who have known each other since elementary school and march together in the school band. But although Crumbly said blacks and whites ″get along fairly well″ at school, they’d never had an integrated prom.

″We go to school together, play football together, run track together, so why can’t we socialize together,″ Crumbly said Saturday at the formal dance in the school gym.

″I go out of town a lot in the summer, to Las Vegas and California,″ he added ″I’d tell (friends) about the prom and they’d say ‘What?’ And they’d ask, ’Do y’all still have to drink out of separate fountains?″

All school dances and parties were canceled by the Peach County school board in the early 1960s when a student apparently was injured during a prom. Board members also said planning the dances took time away from schoolwork.

Without a school-sponsored prom, parents began organizing their own - one for blacks, one for whites.

But three years ago, Peach County’s parent-teacher group, the Better Schools Association, tried to change the board’s policy. The board promptly rejected their request for an integrated prom.

Last year, the board changed its position, and Saturday’s prom was held without incident.

″This prom,″ Crumbly said, ″will be a good experience.″

Susan Jordan, president of the parent-teacher organization, said the students set an example for their community.

″A child shall lead them,″ she said, quoting the Bible. ″Well, in this case, a group of children shall perhaps lead the community, and won’t that be great? And isn’t it about time?″

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