Albany, Ga. Gerica McCrary said she cried when she heard about the decision to hold a separate whites-only prom only a year after she helped bring black and white students together in her rural high school's first integrated prom.
Many white students at Taylor County High School said they plan to attend next week's mixed prom, but a small number of whites said they also wanted a private party.
Juniors are charged with planning the prom each year and last year they decided to have just one dance -- the first integrated prom in 31 years in the rural Georgia county 150 miles south of Atlanta.
Until then, parents and students organized separate proms for whites and blacks after school officials stopped sponsoring dances, in part because they wanted to avoid problems arising from interracial dating.
After school integration, separate proms were common in the rural South. Taylor County was among the last to cling to the practice.
Erin Posey, a white senior, said the entire junior class joined together in hosting last year's prom, but this year's junior class wasn't as unified.
"I think a lot of seniors were disappointed," she said. "Now we have to choose between two groups of friends."
The school has 439 students, 232 of them black. McCrary, who is black, and a white friend passed out fliers informing students of all races that they would be welcome at the May 9 prom at nearby Fort Valley State University. The private prom is Friday night 50 miles away in Columbus.
"I would have liked to see it together this year," said Gerard Latimore, a black junior class president who helped organize this year's integrated prom night. "My class would have, too. It just didn't happen this year."
Gerard's mother, Glenda Latimore, a 1972 graduate, attended a segregated prom. She said relatives in Philadelphia and New Jersey laugh when they read about Taylor County's prom.
"It seems like it's something secret," she said. "The white people are afraid to speak up against the separation.
"But I went to a black prom and I had fun," she added. "It didn't kill me, so I tell my son, 'Just go to the prom and have fun. Don't come out hating anyone."'