A Birmingham Prom 50 Years in the Making

Class of '63 finally gets a ball that was denied to those who participated in the Children's March.

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Craig Witherspoon, current superintendent of the Birmingham Public City School System, said events such as the prom and the scholarship essay contest help bridge the gap between history and today for students.

"They can relate to being denied the privilege of attending the senior prom, and they can understand the sacrifices of others," Witherspoon said.

In her essay, Alexandria Brooks spoke of the courage displayed by students in the past and said she hopes her generation can do the same. "Today's students are afraid to stand up for one person bullied, let alone an entire race of people," she said.

Students in 1963 came face to face with legendary Birmingham Public Safety Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor. In her essay, Darlesia Sykes said: "If Mr. Connor were alive today, he would probably be very upset to see this event."

Amie Mathews graduated from Carver High School in 1964, but she attended last night's prom to celebrate with her friends. "I just wanted to be here," said Matthews, who was arrested while participating in the Children's March. "This is important."

While Ethel Arms enjoyed the prom preparation and the celebration, she said there is still a message for today's youths.

"We suffered and struggled for change," she said. "We must not, we cannot become complacent."

Denise Stewart grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the 1960s and is a freelance journalist based in Alabama.

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