I am from Louisiana which is a neighbor to the state of Mississippi. I have made a small town in Mississippi my home for now so this film was of special interest to me. I have seen signs of racism all over but for some reason here in this state it seems pretty clear that it exists more openly.

I live in a mixed race neighborhood. I have black neighbors and white neighbors but to tell the truth although my family and I are white, I have to admit that here I find the black people are very friendly to us. We have lived here for about a year and a half and have never been treated wrong but I can honestly say we don’t treat them any different than we do white people. Why should we? They are here on this earth just like we are and it is said in the Bible that we were all created equally so it doesn’t make one race any better than another.

While in Mississippi Filmmaker, Paul Saltzman in 1965 found that Mississippi was
known to them as “the belly of the beast” of southern racism and segregation. The KKK was strong here. The White Citizen’s Council, the “white collar Klan” as they were referred to was strong here as well.

Being from Canada he was somewhat shocked to find that some of the great institutions of America like the Boy Scouts, The Girl Guides, the YMCA, the Howard Johnson, even washrooms and drinking fountains were segregated in the south.

Forty years later he decided to find out how much things had changed here over the years. He got his first video camera and flew down from Canada to Jackson Mississippi. He went to talk to the people, black and white, young and old, racist or not, and get them to share their thoughts and feelings about racial matters.

After driving around Mississippi he met the actor, Morgan Freeman and decided to film him from his home in a small town in Mississippi called Charleston which had a population of 2100.

He learned that Mississippi had come further in rave relations more than any State in the Union since the 60’s with the highest capita black elected officials, black police chiefs and black fire chiefs. The one thing that startled him though was that the high school there that was integrated still held separate proms, having one all white prom and one all black proms.

He decided to include this segment as a part of the film he was making. After talking to Freeman more on the subject he discovered that the school in questioned happened to be where Morgan Freeman lived and that a decade before this Freeman had indeed offered to pay for the high school prom if they would integrate it but they turned the offer down.

Saltzman asked Freeman if he would be willing to try it again and he said yes so they set up a meeting with Morgan at the school board office and they started the documentary “Prom Night in Mississippi.”

In this documentary we hear about the real problems behind the racism in this small town. Surprisingly the students in this high school didn’t have as much a problem with integrating as much as their parents and even the school board did.

Paul Saltzman and his wife who is his co-producer, Patricia Aquino funded the film personally and they even moved to the community so they could gain the trusts of the students, parents and school staff since some of them were worried they would be made to look bad in the documentary.

The students are interviewed and are encouraged to share their feelings about integrating the prom. We see history changing in this film and I would very much so recommend watching it. It was done very well and Mr. Saltzman deserves an applause for his work. I’d also like to thank Morgan Freeman for his part in the film and for what he did for these kids also.

Jan Barrett

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